Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Turning Lebanese...

The full moon has pumped me full of creative thoughts. All I want to do is cook at the moment. So, when I got home last night, I headed around the corner to The Circle shops to buy my ingredients for my planned night of cooking. No television, no music. Just me,a knife, a chopping board and the kitchen. As promised last week- Kousa Mahshi or stuffed zuchinis- lebanese style.

First, wash your zucchini's then cut the stalk end off. Once
you have done this, you will need to hollow out the middle by removing the pulp.
How does one achieve this you ask?

Ta da!! Behold- the manakra! This baby will set you back 2 fat ones.
You'll need it.

The manakra in action-not sure if I'm doing it right but I persist

I guess that's how it goes-they're hollowed out and ready to be filled
with rice mincey spicy goodness.

An arty shot of my green babies.

Place the zooks in cold,salted water for 5 mins. The salt
water helps to keep them firm for the cooking process.

Now to make your baharat or if you can't be arsed,
can be purchased ready made at Middle Eastern grocers.
I hope the person behind the counter slaps you for being so lazy.

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons dry roasted and ground cumin seeds
2 teaspoons dry roasted and ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a bowl, mix 250 grams of mince of your choice. I used lamb but the recipe called for beef.
I'm bored with beef mince. Add 1 cup of short grain rice that has been rinsed, half cups of flat leaf parsley and mint, 1 medium tomato,salt,pepper and the baharat. Do not cook. Mix well and begin stuffing your zukes.

This is where I made a bit of a mistake. Don't use as much water as I have in this photo.
Add 2 big blobby tablespoons of tomato paste to just over half full pan of water.
Add your zukes and start boiling.

Cover them and once they start boiling, lower heat to a low simmer and cook
for a further 60 minutes.

Now for the fattoush - a Lebanese salad with bread.

Finely chop 2 tomatoes, handfuls of mint,coriander and flat leaf parsley,some fine slices of radish,half each of red and green capsicums
and 2 lebanese cucumbers. Juice one lemon and add to 3 parts of good olive oil.
The rule of thumb for salad dressing is one part acid,3 parts oil. Add some salt and pepper. Shake/whisk well.
The recipe called for one large round of flat bread to be deep fried till crispy and drained on kitchen paper.
I wasn't in the mood for that caper so I put in the oven for ten or so minutes till crispy. No oil on the hips or all over the stovetop/floors/walls/me.

My first attempt was a disaster. Pan carcinogentico.

The end result- fresh and delicious.

Again, I forgot to photograph the end result! The water the zukes are cooked in are meant to create the sauce but due to too much water, it was just flavourless liquid. As suggested, I served it with a dollop of smooth,creamy delightful labni yogurt which was to die for. I also served the fattoush on a leaf of baby cos lettuce which gives a fresh and lovely crunch along with the bread pieces in the salad. I'll definitely be making both of these again and I'm very happy for my first attempt at making both.
They should have looked like this and they kind of did!

If vegetarian and reading this, it is just as simple to make sans meat.


Post script! These aren't meant to be covered! If you do, the water doesn't reduce and you don't get the lovely sauce it creates. I made them the other night and they were so perfect. With the dollop of labneh, it's Lebanese heaven!!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Casserole Of Sorts...

I've been reading through an old French cookbook that I picked up at a church stall for fiddy cents which has boeuf bourguignon and Jill Dupleix's 'New Food' which has her version of 'coq au vin' with chicken.
Trying to consider my housemate who doesn't eat red meat, I opted for the latter choice. It didn't quite go as planned but was very delicious all the same.

First of all,preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

You'll need some vegetables:
  • 10 pearl onions (more commonly known as pickling onions)
  • 2 large or 3 medium carrots
  • 3 stalks of celery
  • 200 grams or around 15 mushrooms
  • A few cloves of garlic - you choose the amount. I used 6.
Then you'll need to chop the mushrooms in half and the carrots and celery in fine dice.
Keep the onions whole. Rough chop the garlic.

In my sexy, cast iron, red enamelled casserole pan which I have heated up on the stove top, I add a lug of good olive oil and a wodge of salted butter. If you think home brand vegetable oil and margarine will suffice, kill yourself now.
Add your vegetable and a good dash of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Turn down the heat as cast iron stays hot and you don't want to burn your veggies. Saute and 'sweat off' the vegetables.

At this point you want to add your chicken pieces. Once they have 'colour', move on to next step.

Add a wine glass full of dry white wine (if you used fruity lexia or passion pop you are a bogan from hell and see above re; veg oil and margarine). Add 2 cups of chicken stock and a 'Scarborough Fair' (a bouquet garni made from a small bunch of parsley,sage,rosemary & thyme). Cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the alcohol in the wine has evaporated.
Drain a can of whole tomatoes-make sure they are Italian-and add to your casserole. Cover and transfer to oven.  Slow cook for 1.5 hours. The liquid should reduce by half to make a divine sauce. I served this with some whole steamed chats (little potatoes) and broccoli but you can choose what you like. Next time, I will buy a fresh,crusty baguette to mop up the lovely sauce at the end.

I love Autumn-my favourite time of year and meals such as this represent the beginning of the season change for me.  The sort of food that warms the cockles of your heart and stick to the ribs.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Prez-erved Olives

Okay, I know I said I'd make something for Lester 'Prez' Young but I couldn't help the cheesy pun title. Forgiven?

On Saturday afternoon, I cycled around the corner to an olive tree that Sarah had discovered and told me was 'laden' with fruit. I took my back pack, a large plastic shopping bag and a regular supermarket plastic bag. Either her version of laden is a few olives or someone got there first. Thankfully, there were two trees and it got me about 1.5 kilos of black olives. I took those babies home and preserved them.

Here's how things went:

First, wash your olives under cold water and drain.

Look how purdy these babies are. Organic too!
You'll need some rock salt - I used a 2 kilo bag
 Cover your olives well. Try to do it in layers
The salt will break down the bitter juice in the olives. Make sure you
have a bowl under your strainer (you can also use a cane basket) to catch the juices.

Cover the olives with a clean cloth or tea towel and store in an out of the way place. I have a walk-in pantry and they are living on the bottom shelf. Give your olives a shake at least twice a week and drain out any of the run off from them. In about four to six weeks, they should be ready.  Watch this space for part two when I make the olive oil/chilli/garlic marinade in which to store them in.

Cost thus far; $3.00 for the salt. Olives were a donation from Mother Nature.... hmmm.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Greg Malouf and Miles Davis

Fossicked through a box of books and found my copy of Arabesque by Greg Malouf. It is filled with the most amazing recipes. Living in an area populated with Lebanese, we are privy to some good Middle Eastern ingredients that assist in the cooking of some great M.E cuisine. So it has inspired me to prepare some.

The train ride into the city this morning was actually enjoyable. Reading through the pages of beautiful recipes describing the lists of ingredients one needs to make this delicious fare accompanied with the sounds of Miles Davis' 'Kind Of Blue' album on the iPod.

Cooking to me is like jazz- there are rules but on the whole, it's completely improvised. That's why I've called my blog 'Can Madam Burn'. It's a term coined by the great Lester Young which was his way of asking 'can you cook?' He was also an innovator, an exceptional musician, Billie Holliday's soul mate and a beautiful man.

Prez, I'll pick something special from the Arabesque cookbook and make it just for you.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My Kitchen Rules Grand Final

Congrats to Veronica and Shadi for winning the MKR crown. I enjoyed watching this show, despite its cliched formula and the obvious -that Manu Fiedel is a right sexy bastard.

 I know as a Melburnian, I should have been cheering for the boys but I liked V and S from the start.  They cook the food I like with the same principles of culture and love.

I was so engrossed in watching, I totally forgot to photograph the step by step of the awesome bolognaise sauce I made in the commercial breaks. I used lamb mince instead of beef and the flavours totally worked.

Tonight I'm making stuffed peppers so will definatly have that process for you tomorrow- and hope the love is flowing for those little beauties. 

I also have a bunch of bananas getting very ripe so I can make a banana and raspberry loaf. Bake therapy is also back on my menu.  It keeps you sane.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Seven Seeds. The only name in coffee you need to know when in Melbourne.. snaps to Padre in case James is reading this!

If only I could photograph the fabulous smell as well...

Dud Night Of Cooking (or 'Where Is The Love?)

The making of the harissa didn't happen and my tagine that I made for the 'Taste Of Harmony' day was a flop.

I'm not feeling the love at the moment and my food is the poor victim of this.

Hopefully I can redeem myself soon. It's heart wrenching.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Red Loveliness

I love that capsicum with the Jimmy Durante type 'nose'.

I love red capsicums.

Home Made and Hot

I'm going to make harissa tonight. Greg Malouf style. It consists of 15 fresh chillies and 15 dry chillies.
Sounds like it's fiery enough to tear an elephant a new one.

I attempted to make quince paste on the weekend. I think it was a bit of a flop. I'm going to attempt another batch this weekend.

Next on the agenda- olives. Will buy a couple of kilos along with a lot of rock salt and start curing them. In six weeks we should have salty,wrinkly black joy which I will preserve in extra virgin olive oil, whole chillies and garlic cloves and herbs.

Watch this space for pictures and methods of above noted. I did make an amazing fettucine last night but forgot to take pics. I must make mention of Meredith's Chevre goat cheese with dill. Sen-sa-tion-al.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Garlic & Chilli Chicken with Salad

We're having a hot spell here in Melbourne which is shitting me up the wall. It's Autumn and I want crisp,cool days so I can start wearing my coats and doing some good ol' slow cooking. It's a bit hard to do that when it's 31 fricken degrees everyday!

I arrived home from work tired and hungry. I needed something quick and not heavy so I decided on good old chicken and salad. Drumsticks are quicker to cook than a whole chicken-not to mention cheaper-so I grabbed 2 packs of those and then wandered around to the Lebanese mixed business around the corner at the Circle to pick up some fresh salad ingredients. Here's how it all turned out;

Firstly, pre heat your oven to about 250 to get it nice and hot

In a pestle and mortar, I placed 4 cloves of garlic, a teaspoon of rock salt and one very hot,red chilli. I pounded this into a paste then added some extra virgin olive oil-about 2 tablespoons. Using my hands, I coated the chicken pieces with this paste. Make sure you wash your hands well before AND after!
Place your chicken in the oven and turn it down to about 200.

At this stage I like to put my feet up for a moment and pour a glass of wine.

The chicken should take about 30 to 45 minutes.

Now to prepare the salad;

Take a salad onion and use only half as it can be a bit on the strong side and it over powers the other flavours.

I found these (di)vine ripened cherry tomatoes and they were really sweet and lovely. I halved them so they could absorb the dressing.

A nice mix of salad leaves,washed and spun off. Place all ingredients in a bowl, drizzle with balsamic and olive oil and toss.

I was soooo hungry I forgot to photograph the finished product. Suffice to say, it was scrumdiddlyumptious.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Chicken Noodle Soup

When I was a kid, my mum used to make us Lipton's chicken noodle soup from the packet. She would boil some water and add contents until noodles are soft and then serve. The bowls of soup were left near the open window to cool so we wouldn't burn our mouths (awww isn't she sweet?) and then slurped it down like toothless drunks.

As much as I loved it, there were always 2 factors that disappointed me; it was too salty and there was never enough noodles. As the years have rolled on, packet soups have lost there popularity(exception-Trident asian noodle soups that work a treat when you're hung over and all for less than a dollar!)
but I still hankered for ye olde chicken noodle soup.

One day, quite by accident, I discovered soup noodles. I bought them, some chicken stock and raced home to make some soup. Over the years I've tweaked it to suit my tastes. I've served it to many people when they've had colds and have given it to friends when they've been depressed. I have often referred to it as 'depression soup', meaning it as something that comforts me when I've been down and out or on the sad side. Here's the basic recipe which should serve two (or one if you're really hungry).

8 cups of water
1.5 cups of soup noodles such as angel hair, stellini or risoni
2 chicken stock cubes or Massel brand if you are vegetarian
2 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced
5 button mushrooms, finely sliced
1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped
A drizzle of olive oil
A dob of butter
Handful of chopped parsley to finish (optional)
Bring water to the boil and add all ingredients except the noodles. Cook on a slow heat for about ten minutes to develop the flavours. Check the seasoning. Add the noodles and continue boiling till noodles are cooked.

If making it for children, you may want to simplify it for their delicate palates. I would make it for my friends' daughter, Ella when she was younger and it would just be stock cubes/powder,water,noodles and butter.
Sometimes, I'll cut up a couple of chicken thighs and add those. I also like to add some frozen corn for the last 2 minutes before I take it off the heat.
You may want to place on the window sill to cool it down a bit before eating...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Roast Vegetable & Goats Cheese Salad

I thought I'd start my food blog with an old favorite and one that is oft requested.  It's a lovely salad that can be served either warm or cold and goes beautifully with baked fish.

I dedicate this recipe to Lester Young.

2 large potatoes, chopped into large-ish dice
Half a butternut pumpkin, chopped in afore mentioned way
1 large red onion, cut into wedges
A few garlic cloves-skin left on
A bunch of baby beetroot or 2 large beetroots
A nice big wodge of fresh,peppery rocket or other nice salad leaves if you can't get rocket or you don't like it-
1 jar Meredith Goats Cheese
Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
A lemon

Place your potatoes,pumpkin,garlic cloves and red onion on a baking tray. Drizzle some olive olive over the veg and season with salt and pepper.  Place in a hot oven- around 200.
Top and tail the beetroot. Place in a saucepan,cover with water and boil till cooked. I usually just stab a knife in the middle to see if they're soft. Drain the purple water and peel the beetroot-the skins will just slip off easily at this point. You may want to wear a pair of latex kitchen gloves so you don't stain and burn your hands. Once peeled, cut the beetroot into small pieces if using the large kind. Otherwise,serve whole if using baby beets.
Wash the rocket and shake off excess water.Place in a large salad bowl. Add the beetroot and roast veg and toss well. Squeeze the cloves of roasted garlic into the salad.
If you are using Meredith goat's cheese, pour the lovely flavoured oil over the salad. Break off pieces of cheese and add to the salad. Finish the salad with a good squeeze of lemon and a good seasoning of salt and pepper.

Note! If using another brand of goat's cheese, you'll have to whip up a salad dressing.
Try this one-
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of good olive oil
  • sea salt
  • pepper
  • a touch of caster sugar to balance the flavours 
Place all ingredients into a jar,close the lid and shake the fuck out of it. It's ready.