Chilli cornbread

corn, capsicum, polenta, chilli

Marie Claire Hot, 400pp.
by Michele Cranston
Murdoch Books Australian, Millers Point NSW, 2005
Cooking on pages 32–33

We love chillies, so buying this book was an absolute no-brainer. It was a secondhand bookstore purchase for a measly $3. It’s loaded with a great variety of recipes with zing, and I’m sure I’ll get a lot of use out if. 

The introduction quite rightly points out that chillies vary widely in hotness, and that the seeds are usually the hottest part. There’s also a reminder to use rubber gloves when chopping chillies so you don’t later do damage to your face and eyes. Can’t remember how many times I’ve rubbed my eyes after handling chillies. 

Pages 32–33 have a bread recipe.

Chilli cornbread

Chilli cornbread

Ingredients
150g (5 1/2 oz/ 1 cup) polenta
125 g (4 1/2 oz/ 1 cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
185 ml (6 fl oz/ 3/4 cup) milk
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
3 tablespoons olive oil
150 g (5 1/2 oz/ 3/4 cup) corn kernels
1/2 red capsicum (pepper), sliced
1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped
3 teaspoons finely chopped marjoram
5 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
75 g (2 1/2 oz/ 1/2 cup) grated mozzarella cheese

milk, baking powder, spring onions capsicum, spring onion, corn, herbs cornbread batter cornbread to bake

Method
Place the polenta, four, baking powder and sugar in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, milk, yoghurt and oil. Mix well. Add the corn, capsicum, chilli, marjoram and spring onions and mix well. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Pour the batter into a greased 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 in) baking tray and top with the grated mozzarella. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre.

Cool slightly in the tray, then turn out onto a board. Trim the sides and cut into 4 cm (1 1/2 inch) squares.

How it played out
Corn bread is one of those things you can make blindfolded, although I don’t recommend doing that with this recipe until you’ve chopped the chilli and marjoram, and sliced the capsicum (bell pepper) and spring onions. Oh, and wait until you’ve cut the kernels off the corncob.

That said, I followed the recipe—with my eyes open—using cheddar cheese and dried marjoram because that’s what I had on hand.

I did cool the bread in the pan, but didn’t bother trimming the outer edges because the bread, when baked, had a great shape.

Served with steaks with horseradish sauce, another page-32 recipe coming soon. But seriously, you could serve it with almost anything, even a savoury breakfast.

Marie Claire Hot cookbook

Verdict
A lovely and colourful bread, but we thought it desperately needed a touch of salt, maybe 1/2 teaspoon, but otherwise it was a great variation on cornbread.

Obviously, you could increase (or reduce) the chilli or use different spices to suit your taste.

Travel
We’re travelling in Europe at the moment. We’re seeing all kinds of street food cuisines (mostly sold from food vans), but nothing has been quite like the street food we found in Cambodia.

baked cornbread

Posted in Baking, Bread, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Macadamia-crumbed chicken strips

flour, egg and crumb coating

Home cooking, 256pp.
by Valli Little
HarperCollinsPublishers Australia, Sydney, 2012
Cooking on page 32

This is one of many cookbooks put out through a collaboration involving ABC Books (Australian Broadcasting Corporation), NewsLifeMedia and delicious magazines.

The 100+ recipes here are from Valli Little’s home kitchen. She’s a bestselling author and food director for delicious magazine. The book includes family favourites and plenty of ideas for easy entertaining.

It’s almost impossible to go wrong with these dishes unless, of course, you choose to make something calling for ingredients you don’t especially like.

Chicken macadamia nuggets with salsa

Macadamia-crumbed chicken strips

Ingredients
1/2 cup (75g) macadamias, roughly chopped
2 cups (100g) breadcrumbs
1 cup (150g) plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
12 chicken tenderloins or 4 x 170g chicken breast fillets, cut into thirds lengthways
sunflower oil, to deep-fry

Tomato salsa
4 tomatoes, seed removed, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 long green chilli, seeds removed, chopped
1 tbs grated ginger
2 tbs chopped coriander (cilantro), plus extra leaves to serve
juice of 1 lime, plus lime wedges to serve
1/3 cup (80ml) extra virgin olive oil

panko and macadamia free-range eggs crumbed chicken strips onion, tomatoes, chillies, ginger, lime

Method
For the tomato salsa, place all the ingredients in a bowl, season , then toss to combine. Set aside.

Place the macadamias and breadcrumbs in a food processor and whizz to fine crumbs. Transfer to a bowl.

Place the flour in a separate bowl and season. Place the egg in a third bowl.

Dust the chicken first in flour, shaking off the excess, then in the egg and finally in the macadamia crumbs, making sure each piece is well coated. Chill for 20 minutes to firm up.

Preheat the oven to 150°C.

Half-fill a large saucepan or deep-fryer with the oil and heat to 190°C (if you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, a cube of bread dropped into the oil will turn golden after 30 seconds when the oil is hot enough). In batches, deep-fry the crumbed chicken strips for 3–4 minutes until golden and cooked through. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Transfer to a baking tray and keep warm in the oven while you cook the remaining chicken.

Serve the chicken strips with the tomato salsa, lime wedges and extra coriander leaves. Serves. 4.


How this played out
This seemed like a perfect recipe for a picnic so I started it in the mid-afternoon to take along for an early evening outing with family and friends. I figured it could be served at room temperature without problem.

chicken nuggets salsa

As suggested, I made the salsa first so the flavours could meld. I then cut about 1.3 kilograms worth of chicken breast fillets into strips, and followed the recipe to coat the strips in flour, then egg, and finally the crumb mixture. As you can tell I was making a double batch to feed a crowd.

I used panko breadcrumbs because that’s what I had on hand. There was enough of all three coatings to have done 2 kilos (or more) of chicken strips, so keep that in mind if you want to make an even larger batch.

Deep frying always takes longer than you think it will, especially when you’re doing a lot. Each batch of strips took close to 5 minutes to become golden. In the end, we were a little late heading out, but so were the friends (Vicky, Graham and Luke) who were joining us, so that didn’t matter.

Served with lots of salads and a frittata.

As a special treat, Vicky brought along her kayak so my niece, Ellen, and her hubby, Tom, could each have a go on the Molonglo River, which feeds into Canberra’s Lake Burley Griffin.

Home Cooking by Valli Little

Verdict
What a great way spend time with friends and family. Lots of delicious food (the chicken was a winner and the crumb mixture gave a nice, but subtle crunch), wonderful company, excellent weather, and the kayak didn’t tip over.

If the chicken pieces are cut a little smaller, I think this recipe would also be good as an appetiser, with the salsa as a dipping sauce.

Travel
Tom and Ellen visited us as part of a 10-week, trip-of-a-lifetime around Southeast Asia. We felt especially blessed they managed to fit Canberra into their travels. They were just ahead of the colourful autumn displays we have in Canberra.

kayaking on Molonglo River

Tom has a go at kayaking on the Molonglo River

Picnic time in Canberra

Picnicking with Ellen, Tom, Poor John, Vicky and Luke. Graham is missing, off to the right

Posted in Appetiser, Main dish, Poultry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Biggel balls

cheese, chives, sour cream, butter

Green eggs and ham cookbook, 64pp.
by Georgeanne Brennan
Random House, New York, 2006
Cooking on page 32

I love Dr Seuss books and am especially fond of The Cat in the Hat.

Georgeanne Brenna and Frankie Frankeny, who collaborated on this cookbook, love Dr Seuss too. According to Brennan, the pair read all 44 Dr Seuss books and found they were full of wacky foods for them to bring to life.

They then set about creating and illustrating recipes that were not only Seussian, zany and fun, but also deliciously good and healthy.

There are some great recipe titles, such as River of Nobsk Corn-off-the Cobsk, Noodle-Eating-Poodle Noodles, Pink Yink Ink Drink and, of course, Who-Roast-Beast.

So on to page 32 with a recipe inspired by Dr Seuss’ Sleep Blook.

Cheese balls with poppy seeds

Biggel balls

Ingredients
5 ounces grated mild cheddar, Monterey Jack, or other cheese
1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon butter at room temperature,
1 tablespoon minced chives
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup poppy or sesame seeds, chopped green pumpkin seeds, chopped pistachios or pecans, or other seeds or nuts

grated cheese cheese balls

Method
In a food processor, combine the cheese, sour cream, butter, chives and salt, and process until smooth, about 1 minute.

Using your hands, shape the mixture into bite-size balls. Place on a tray lined with aluminium foil and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Spread the seeds or nuts on a plate and roll the balls in them. 

Makes about 18 balls.

How it played out
We like strong flavours so I used a vintage cheddar, and followed everything else. After refrigerating them for just 30 minutes—I was in a hurry—I rolled them in poppy seeds. Even 1/3 cup of seeds is too much. I needed about 1/4 cup for 17 balls.

Took them to a friend’s house. Served as a snack with wine. Also spread a couple on savoury biscuits (crackers).

Green eggs and ham cookbook

Verdict
So very easy to make (a perfect recipe to involve the kids—don’t they always love to get their hands messy) and just as easy to serve. Goes well as an appetiser and would be great popped into a lunch box.

I think I’d prefer them rolled in toasted sesame seeds (or a mixture of sesame and poppy seeds for a prettier appearance) and served with a salsa dipper.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can choose virtually any cheese that will stay firm, and any nuts or seeds that you fancy.

Travel
We’ve just arrived in France and are catching up with people shown in this post from my travel blog.

Posted in Appetiser, Cheese, Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Tandoori fish with mint relish

mint relish mixture

Sizzling barbecues, 144pp.
by Reader’s Digest kitchens
Reader’s Digest (Australia), Ultimo NSW, 2012
Cooking on page 32–33

For fuss-free cooking, not much beats a barbecue. That’s why I grabbed this at the recent Lifeline Book Fair.

This cookbook seems to be part of a Reader’s Digest series that covers various cooking styles, cuisines and core ingredients

This volume has a range of recipes for the barbecue hotplate, grill rack, wok burner and rotisserie. I thought it was great that the dishes went beyond meat options to include vegetables and fruit. So what’s on page 32?

Tandoori fish with mint relish

Tandoori fish with mint relish

Ingredients
4  white fish fillets (125 g each), such as red snapper, bream or barramundi
2 teaspoons sunflower oil

Marinade
2 tablespoons Greek-style yogurt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch garam masala
1 clove garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
3 teaspoons paprika
salt and pepper

Mint relish
1/3 cup (20 g) finely chopped fresh mint
1/2 teaspoon seeded and finely chopped fresh green chilli
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon caster sugar

spice mixture fish in marinade cooking fish

Method
To make the marinade, combine the yogurt, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, garam masala, garlic, ginger and paprika, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Place the fish in a shallow non-metallic dish, rub in the marinade, cover and refrigerate for at least 1½ hours.

To make the mint relish, mix the mint, chilli, garam masala, lemon juice and sugar together and add salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until required.

Lightly oil a barbecue hotplate or grill rack then preheat to medium–high heat. Remove the fish from the marinade and, using your fingers, gently wipe off any excess marinade.

Cook the fish on the hotplate or grill rack over direct heat for about 5 minutes each side, or until cooked through. Serve hot with the mint relish to one side. Steamed rice or wild rice is a good accompaniment.

How it played out
Readers’ Digest books spell out everything so clearly. I made the marinade first and got the fish—bream purchased on special at the market—in the fridge so the flavours could blend. The mint relish came next. I had mint from the garden and a chilli from a friend’s garden.

Then it was a simple matter of cooking the fish. I did this indoors on a lightly oiled ridged hotplate. I made a bit of a mess of the fillets when I tried to lift them from the hotplate. Maybe a little more oil next time!

Served with a mixed bean salad, another page-32 recipe.

Tandoori fish

Verdict
The fish on the plate may not have won a photo beauty contest, but the flavour was very nice. That said, there was nothing about it that could be called tandoori, except that it was reddish in colour.

If I want tandoori flavours, I’ll be looking for a different, more spice-laden recipe. If I decide to re-use this one as a tandoori option, I’ll be adding a lot more cayenne and garam masala at the very least, and probably a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander. Maybe some turmeric too. Would also increase the chilli and garam masala in the mint relish.

Sizzling barbecues cookbook

But I readily admit that we’re big-time spice and chilli lovers so if you prefer milder flavourings this should be perfect as is.

Travel
One of the best Indian tandoori dishes I’ve ever had was a dish featuring chunks of paneer that we ordered in a small restaurant called Friends, in the northern Indian town of Mussoorie.

Posted in Fish and seafood, Main dish, Sauces and condiments | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Mixed bean salad

Green and yellow beans

Shortcuts: more than 200 recipes for busy cooks, 184pp.
The Australian Women’s Weekly kitchens
ACP Books, Sydney, 2010
Cooking on page 32

This handy spiral bound book is filled with tips and recipes for cooks who are time-poor and short of inspiration. There are plenty of useful hints like using frozen chopped onions or other pre-cut vegetables and herbs. And other tips such as noting how quick it is to cook couscous and vermicelli. There is also advice on shopping and storage.

Recipes cover soups, salads, barbecues, things to do with bread, stir-fries, roasts, dessert and baking. Many pages have two recipes and each recipe has a photo.

Page 32’s recipes are for salads. I made the first one.

Mixed beans with fish

Mixed bean salad

Ingredients
250g (8 ounces) green beans, trimmed
250 g (8ounces) yellow beans, trimmed
60g (2 ounces) butter, chopped
1/3 cup (45g) finely chopped roasted hazelnuts
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind

Hazelnuts Colourful beans

Method
Boil, steam or microwave beans until tender; drain. 
Combine warm beans with remaining ingredients in medium bowl. Serves 4.

How it played out
I chose this recipe because a friend gave me fresh green beans from her garden and I’d already bought yellow beans on special on the market.

I was a little short, having only 190 grams of each kind of bean, so I cut the butter back to 50 grams and slightly reduced the nuts, parsley and lemon rind. I steamed the beans for about 5 minutes.

The hazelnuts were roasted at 135°C (275°F) for about 15 minutes. I let them cool for about 5 minutes and then rubbed them vigorously in a towel to remove the skins.

Served with tandoori fish with mint relish, another page-32 recipe.

Shortcuts cookbook

Verdict
We almost always get the recommended five serves of veggies every day and this was a great addition to my repertoire.

I rarely have two kinds of beans on hand, so I’ll probably keep this recipe as one I might serve to company. It’s pretty, colourful and a bit out of the ordinary. The nuts add a classy touch. Highly recommended.

Travel
We’ve had some great meals on our travels including a few very special dishes in northern India.

Posted in Nuts, Salad, Side dish, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Asparagus—grilled with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar

Asparagus dressing

The only recipes you’ll ever need, 4 ways to cook almost everything, 144pp.
by Tony Turnbull
Quadrille Publishing, London, 2013
Cooking on page 32

I love the premise of this book. Every two-page spread focuses on a single ingredient or type of dish—such as lamb chops and couscous, or savoury pancakes and salad dressings. It then gives four relevant recipes for each option.

Not surprisingly, I had a difficult time deciding which asparagus recipe to make. The other three covered a soup, a version poached with hollandaise sauce, and a stilton tart.

I went for this recipe because I had everything on hand.

Asparagus with Parmesan

Asparagus—Grilled with Parmesan and balsamic vinegar

Ingredients
750g asparagus, trimmed
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
freshly shave Parmesan

asparagus

Method
Rub the asparagus with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and place on a hot griddle pan or under the grill, turning occasionally, until cooked—about 5 minutes depending on the thickness.

Transfer to a plate. Mix together the remaining oil and the vinegar and drizzle over the asparagus. Scatter with some shavings of Parmesan. Season. Serve.

How it played out
Made this using three bunches of asparagus (or about 500 grams after snapping off the ends). It couldn’t have been easier and there was no reason to change a thing.

The only recipe you'll ever need

But I did approach the oil slightly differently. Instead of rubbing the oil onto the asparagus, I poured the oil onto a large dinner plate and then rolled the asparagus over it. Just seemed the make more sense, and be less messy.

Verdict
I love asparagus in all its forms. This is a great recipe, and carries the Parmesan well. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Go on, try it. I dare you. And did you notice that the asparagus recipes are on the cover of the book?

Posted in Cheese, Side dish, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , | 29 Comments

Hot German potato salad

potatoes boiling onion and celeryNorth Hill cookery II, 136pp.
by members and friends of North Hills Church of God
Morris Press, Kearney Nebraska, USA, 1987
Cooking on page 32

Spiral-bound, paperback community cookery books are often a goldmine of recipes from talented home cooks. Most creations are classics and a few turn out to be disasters.

Some recipes are tricky to make because the ingredients are available only in the country where the cookbook was produced. Sometimes the measurements are challenging to figure out. How big is a gob of butter?

Luckily, page 32 had a wonderful recipe, by a Ginger Martindale, that called for readily available ingredients and included easy-to-decipher measurements.

By the way, I can’t remember how I came to have this book, but Morris Press, which specialises in fundraising cookbooks, was just up the road from where I lived in Nebraska. Or perhaps my mother bought it on one of her trips to Phoenix Arizona, which is where the church is.

Hot German potato salad

Hot German potato salad

Ingredients
4 1/2 lbs, peeled and boiled potatoes
1 1/2 c. chopped onions
3 T. flour
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. sugar
1 1/2 c sliced radishes
9 slices bacon, diced
3/4 c. chopped celery
2 tsp. salt
1 c. cider vinegar
1/3 c. fresh parsley, cut up

Australian bacon cooking bacon

cooking onion and celery

simmering sauce
Method
Boil potatoes. Fry bacon until crisp in large skillet. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Cook onion and celery in bacon fat until tender. Stir in flour and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until bubbly. Remove from heat, stir in water, vinegar and sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute.

Stir in parsley and bacon. Cut potatoes in thin slices. Toss potatoes with bacon mixture in 3 1/2-quart casserole.

Cover and bake in 350°F oven for 30 minutes. Stir in radishes. Great hot—and even good as a cold leftover.

How it played out
Petra’s cricket team was in charge of catering for both teams at a recent game. I figured it was the perfect chance to make a recipe that called for 4 1/2 pounds of potatoes, so volunteered to contribute.

It’s a completely straightforward recipe, so I more or less followed it. I didn’t bother peeling the potatoes—too fiddly a step and why lose the nutrition in the skin? Cut the sugar back to just 1/3 cup (which was plenty) and used cornflour as a thickener because I knew at least one of the players couldn’t have gluten.

You’ll see from the photo above, just how large our Australian bacon rashers (slices) are, so I used 5 instead of 9.


North Hills cookery
Verdict
Super easy to make and a brilliant recipe for a crowd. At least 25 people enjoyed a serving.

I was surprised by the number of people who said they hadn’t eaten radishes for ages, even though they loved them. Many also commented on how nice it was to taste the cider vinegar.

And even though the recipe title refers to ‘hot’ potato salad, this worked just fine at room temperature.

Will definitely keep this on my list when cooking for a crowd. I’m sure it could easily be halved or doubled.

Travel
If you’re a fan of potatoes, check out my travel blog for one of our memorable roadside meals in India—a great breakfast of potato cakes.

German potato salad

Posted in Salad, Side dish, Vegetable | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments