Thursday, 28 February 2008

Someone's baking...

Well, I asked a few of you on my personal blog, "what should I make next?". Kudos to Daemonfall on for the suggestion of Beer Bread. I have found a few recipes and it seems fairly easy, so I'm going to give it a go on Saturday.

Now, any suggestions for the types of beer I should use, since I don't really touch the stuff?

A question of cocktails

Long before my partner's father got me into wine (story of how that happened to follow*), the only alcoholic drinks I enjoyed were sickly sweet liqueurs such as Bailey's, or cocktails (also somewhat sickly sweet). Not exactly the healthiest way to enjoy night out - especially for the calorie content! Now it's been a while since I've had a cocktail, but one I must try one day is a concoction called the Mojito of the Future, a drink invented by "molecular mixologist", Eben Freeman. Look how pretty it is:

Image courtesy of The Guardian.

Yes, those are frozen balls of mint and lime, eerily suspended in a viscous mixture of Barcadi rum, sugar and carbonated water...gelatin and Xanthan gum. Here's the man in action creating the drink:

Now, where can I get me some Xanthan gum?

Monday, 25 February 2008

Maltese Venison Stew

Traditionally this tomato and wine based stew is made with rabbit, unfortunately I haven't the option of obtaining fresh rabbit from a friend's farm like I did in Australia and the only mainstream supermarket that seems to sell it is Waitrose. So I have made do with venison instead, which is much more readily available and still has a nice gamey flavour. Alternatively you can use lamb shanks or stewing beef, chicken is also an option but requires a shorter cooking time.

Please take note this dish has a 3 hour cooking time, not including preparation.

Serves 3 - 4


400g diced Vension
2 large echalion shallots (or 1 small onion), roughly chopped
4 large cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
175 mls red wine (you're allowed to drink the rest! A nice chianti preferably)
2 tbls tomato concentrate
400 grams chopped tomatoes
2 large carrots, peeled, chopped into large slices
2 medium King Edward potatoes, chopped in large even pieces
1 cup fresh peas
1 lamb stock cube
half teaspoon brown sugar
half a teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 tbsp olive oil


1. In a large saucepan, over a medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the onions, frying gently until soft, add the garlic and turn the heat up slightly, cook until browned.

2. Keep on a medium-high heat, add the diced venison and turn over once or twice until browned. Pour in the red wine and stir, when the wine has begun to boil, add the tomato concentrate and chopped tomatoes, once it has begun to boil again turn down the heat to a gentle simmer.

3. Add the lamb stock cube, pepper, nutmeg and sugar and stir through, cover and leave to simmer on a low heat for 1.5 hours (in the meantime, have a nice long bath and drink some of the wine), so the sauce is simmering very gently without bubbling on the surface too much. Stir occasionally - better yet, get someone else to do it so you can stay in the bath longer.

4. After the 1.5 hours is up, add the vegetables, cover again and continue to simmer on a low heat for a further hour. Take another bath? I just do my nails.

5. After the one hour is up, uncover and simmer on a slightly higher heat for half an hour to make sure the sauce has reduced properly, stirring every now and then, if it appears to be reducing a little too quickly, pour in a little water from time to time.

6. In the last few minutes of cooking time, stir through the peas gently to not break up the venison too much. The stew is done once the peas are cooked.

7. Serve with hot crusty bread or over freshly prepared ribbon pasta.

To the people who left comments

Thank you so much for commenting! I'm afraid I didn't realise I had notification turned off, so I hadn't realised anyone even commented!

Thanks for reading, should have a new post on Maltese Venison Stew up later tonight.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Maltese Minestra

This is a recipe that can easily be adapted for vegetarians by leaving out the bacon and adding extra chick peas (or any of your favourite legumes). Because some saltiness is needed for flavour, instead of the lamb stock cube, use a good quality vegetable stock cube.

Minestra, is simply Maltese peasant food, cooked using any left over vegetables and roast meat - a way for nothing to go to waste. It is very healthy and filling. Perfect for the winter nights.

Serves 4


300gms thick smoked bacon or pancetta, with fat trimmed off and cut into
generous sized chunks (Or any left over sausage, met, etc)

1 Small pumpkin or squash, peeled and de-seeded
3 Medium sweet potatoes (chopped into 1 inch thick pieces)
1/2 a small cauliflower, separate the florets
3 shallots - finely chopped
1 garlic clove - finely chopped
2 large carrots (chopped into 1 inch thick pieces)
1 cup peas
Half a tin of chickpeas (usually they have been already prepared and ready
to cook with)
Small handful of lentils (optional)

1 lamb stock cube, melted down with a little boiling water (about 50 mls)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon mild curry
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Easy way to peel a pumpkin:

No two ways about it, pumpkin is a bitch to peel, the skin is tough and the
flesh about as hard to chop up. So this is how I deal with it:

In a large saucepan, large enough to accommodate your pumpkin, cover with boiling water and simmer on high for about 20 mins to par-boil it. Drain and allow the pumpkin to cool. The flesh should now be soft and coming away from the pumpkin shell. Chop in half and scoop out the seeds. Scoop out the flesh and set aside for the Minestra. It doesn't have to cut into pretty chucks, as it will dissolve to a thick soup during cooking.


In a large saucepan, fry the shallots and garlic, on a medium heat, when soft, throw in the bacon and cook until the bacon is brown. At this point, pour in the stock, curry, pepper and parsley and stir. Add the carrots, potatoes and cauliflower. Pour in boiling water to cover. After about 10 mins, add the pumpkin (as this will have already been par-boiled if the above method has been used - if not, put in the same time as the carrot) and if desired, the lentils. Cover the saucepan for 25 mins to simmer. In the last 5 mins, add the chickpeas and peas and stir to make sure the pumpkin (and lentils) is completely dissolved through.

Serve with croûtons or crusty bread with grated Parmesan cheese over the top.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Massaman Lamb Curry

Firstly, an apology - I promised to have this post up a few days ago, but just didn't find the time. So, here it is, in a condensed form of sorts: Massaman Lamb Curry. Now I'm not gong to go into too much detail about the recipe, since you can easily find it on Waitrose's website.

Now then, the obligatory ingredients shot:

Seeing as I didn't want to OD completely on the curry and needing some veg, I also decided to stir-fry some peppers and asparagus, quite simply with a little sesame oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Unfortunately, I had to work later than expected that night and had to make do with a Tesco Local, so I could get the ready prepared diced lamb the recipe called for - a couple of leg steaks, a sharp knife and some inconvenience later, here is the resulting fat-trimmed, cubed lamb:

Mmmmm. Meaty goodness. Now as called for I fried up the chopped onion and mixed in the paste - the paste smelled amazing by the way, like concentrated spices. Then I threw in the lamb and stired it all together until everything was coated evenly in the paste.

At this point John yelled out "that's smells great! I'm hungry, when is it ready?". I noted disappointment when I said at least an hour and a half to go yet. Hey, these things take time! After I cooked the lamb this way for about 6 minutes I poured in the stock and (low fat!) coconut milk, personally I think the recipe calls for a little too much since the aroma was overwhemlingly coconut rather than curry.

Now since this has an hour of simmering to go I prepared the peppers and asparagus for stir frying, I prefer slicing my peppers finely and stir-frying as little as possible so they're still crunchy:

I don't know about any one else, but I adore riots of colour in cooking. Peppers (ahem, capsicums) are a fantastic way to achieve this since they come in such a wide variety of colours. In this case I used the standard red and orange, but there are also green, yellow and even purple peppers available. I must admit for a long time I disliked raw pepper a great deal, but with the impending weight loss I had to go through about a year and a half ago I developed a liking for them. But back on topic, after about an hour of the Massaman slowly bubbling away I threw in the chopped potatoes and a little extra chili, since I prefer my food a bit more spicy. While the potato was softening up nicely I prepared some jasmine rice and stir-fried the prepared vegetables:

Once everything was ready and the peanuts where stirred through the curry, I served each part of the dish in separate bowls, here is the final plating before the other half scrapped away the last of the curry:

Overall, I think my first at-home attempt of massaman curry went quite nicely. Though next time I'll use less coconut milk, a little more paste and throw in a few more chilies.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Sunday Roast Chicken

Due to some last minute change of plans I didn't end up making massaman curry this weekend, but, I did make a lovely Sunday roast - my second ever attempt to roast a whole chicken, since I had invited friends over (long story short, they, unfortunately couldn't make it, but John's mum said she'd come over, which was great since we tend to go to her place all the time). Unabashed plug: Sue is a flavour consultant, if you need any flavours developed, invented or tested, email me for details - she makes a cracking crème brûlée flavour, I keep sniffing the vial every time I go over there.

On to the show then, since I'm great at forgetting to take photos, below is a photo of the almost prepared chicken, basically, chopped up a few cloves of garlic and sprinkled them on the pan base with a little olive oil, stuffed more cloves up the chicken's butt, layered the top with bacon strips and generously sprinkled it with steak seasoning, another little way to cheat in flavouring food, since it seems to have the right amount of saltiness and spiciness for a variety of dishes.

This is when I remembered I forgot to add the shallots to this base = me hurriedly chopping up the shallots with tears streaming down my face. Yes, I've tried all the "tricks" to stop myself crying when I chop up anything to do with onions. They don't work with me. I'm convinced the whole keeping your mouth open and breathing heavily through it instead of you nose is just another way invented for me to look silly, or running the onions/shallots under hot water is a sure thing to getting scalded. Luckily on occasion I have my beautiful assistant to help me - "Jooohhhnnnn, can you chop this up for me while I hide in the bathroom from the toxic fumes?!!" I got about this far, before tearing up. Pathetic huh?

OK, after that episode was over, I scattered the chopped shallots around the chicken and whacked it into a preheated (190
°C fan) oven, well, not whacked, more like issuing a few choice four-letter words from me trying to juggle a huge pan while discovering it doesn't fit on the shelf, trying to rearrange the shelves in the oven without dropping one and a half kilos of raw poultry. That should be a point, rearrange your oven shelves before you heat the oven up.

Next up was the stuffing, since time was going to be precious, good ol' Paxo came to the rescue - it's no where good as home made, but great to soak up gravy on a plate. Aw, look, little balls of stuffing, how cute! (no more innuendo jokes please! I heard enough from a 27 year old bloke going on 13!)

Since the chicken takes nearly an hour and a half to roast for it's size (general rule of thumb is 20 minutes per 500 grams, plus an extra 20 minutes, basting every now and then), I used this time to prepare the usual assortment of vegetables: boiling thick chunks of potato in salted water to be roasted in hazelnut oil - the flavour combination is excellent. Chopping up the carrots and some more garlic to be roasted along side the potatoes and the stuffing balls and boiling up petite pois towards the end of cooking time. Speaking of which, in the last half an hour, take the bacon off the chicken in order for the skin to roast to a golden hue, or it will look very anemic. The bacon can be reheated in the oven in the last 5 minutes for further crisping.

Unfortunately I haven't got a picture of a final plating since everyone was so eager to start eating I forgot to take one, but here is what the leftovers looks like:

And this was the aftermath of Captain Clucker:

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Future Attempt

For my next attempt at cooking something I have never tried doing myself before I'm going to rely on a good ol' Waitrose recipe.

Those with nut allergies, keep out of my kitchen! I'm going to try and make Massaman Lamb Curry this weekend. Though I'm afraid I'm going to cheat and buy a curry paste ready made instead of doing it from scratch - I know, I know, I've said it before I hate ready made sauces, but occasionally having at least just the basic paste helps.

Marco Pierre White himself swears by Knorr stock cubes (so do I
and so does my mother - a woman who for the first 20-odd years of her life, always made stock from scratch). You should be allowed to cheat in your kitchen - but not too much! For example, jarred Bolognese sauce? Disgusting!

Speaking of which, I must remember to post my Bolognese recipe (lovingly adapted from my mother's recipe,
who took it from her mother). The secret ingredient is curry powder (with my little addition of nutmeg, thanks to an idea one of the guys at work gave me - Chris, if you read this, cheers!).

Moroccan Lamb with chargrilled peppers

Forgive the horrible picture of dinner from last night, I'm terrible at plating and the light in my apartment is nasty.

I've made variations of this dish numerous times, usually made up as a lamb roast - but as I didn't have the time last night I decided to griddle some lamb steaks instead (medium rare of course!) and make the sauce separately.

Now the sauce isn't the prettiest, but the flavours are based on those used in Moroccan tagines, the main ingredients are raisins, almonds, rose harissa, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, a lamb stock cube and honey. Just the sauce alone is great with some freshly toasted pitta bread! Eventually I'll type out my recipe for my Moroccan lamb roast, but for now, here's a fragmented version of what I made last night:

For the sauce: Brown a few chopped up shallots and a couple cloves of garlic, throw in a handful of raisins and almonds, toasting them a little. Then add several chopped cherry tomatoes, a tablespoon of the harissa (use as little or as much as you like) and about half a teaspoon of each spice. When the juices of the tomato have simmered for a little while, add the lamb stock cube and a little water to help it dissolve and a generous teaspoon of honey. Leave to simmer on a low for about 30 minutes.

For the lamb: Quite simple really, take a griddle pan, brush with a little olive oil and heat it on a high temperature. For medium rare, grill the lamb on one side for 7 minutes, turn over and grill the other side for a further 7 minutes.

For the chargrilled pepper: Basically the same technique as the lamb, but keep it on the cooler edges of the griddle pan, so it won't cook as quickly.

Serve by pouring a generous helping of the sauce over the lamb. This goes very well with toasted pitta bread and couscous, or for something different (as I did this time) sweet potato mash.

If you want a more comprehensive recipe, please don't hesitate to email me at:

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

First post here!

Testing, testing, one, two...three.

Righto, welcome to the very first post of my food blog
Did you put garlic?. Those who know me know I love cooking - and I mean the whole process of it: Selecting and buying the ingredients (just try and drag me away from Borough Market on a Saturday), preparing, cooking, eating it and just as importantly, having others enjoy it.

So, why the title
Did you put garlic? Well, it is a bit of an homage to my mother. Since I moved to London from Melbourne I developed a bit of a habit calling her while I was cooking, since it meant I had enough time to chat to her and she would be at home getting ready to start the day. Naturally the topic always turned to food since she'll ask what I was doing and, without fail, every time I was cooking a savoury dish (especially one she used to make), she would promptly ask (now imagine this in a heavy Maltese accented smokers voice) "Did you put garlic?".

It became a catchphrase, and one my partner constantly imitates.

Oh, and don't worry - I never forget the garlic.