Breakfast Hash

I am determined to represent Australia in the One Pan Cooking Olympics and when I do, this ‘Breakfast of Champions’ may well be my secret to winning gold – it’s certainly a winner in this household. It’s a winning combination of golden potatoes, flecks of bacon and gooey fried eggs with the subtle perfume of fresh herbs, best enjoyed with a fine blend of tea while watching the rain fall outside from your bedroom window. This is the ultimate one pan lazy weekend breakfast in bed food, so I beg you all to make this and Instagram your foodporn photos with hashtags like #neverleavingthisbedexcepttomakemorehash – and of course tagging @aldo_cucina!

I don’t have too much more to say about this except for the fact that you probably already have the ingredients in your fridge, pantry and garden, and that you can cut down the cooking time by half if you use a pan that you can cover with a lid. If you don’t have a lid for your pan, try covering it with some aluminium foil. I recently bought a new Tefal 30cm hard anodised non stick sautee pan on sale at Harris Scarfe for half-off which is perfect for this recipe.

Also, fresh herbs are necessary, so if you don’t at least have rosemary growing in your garden, get some. It is unkillable and will add a subtle woodiness to recipes like this. I have made this with dried herbs before and I find the flavour too intense and almost soapy.

Don’t fear middle rashes of bacon as the fat will render and give even more salty caramelisation to the potatoes; having said this, short cut bacon works just fine, and the ultimate indulgence is to substitute the bacon with chunks of chorizo which will pepper the hash with its fiery juices. Go on, I dare you!

Right, that’s it. Best get cracking!

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Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium potatoes good for frying (like Royal Blue or Red Delight), peeled and cut into roughly 1.5cm cubes
  • 150g bacon, chopped roughly into 1 – 1.5cm pieces
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped, plus a little extra for sprinkling
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, plus a little extra for sprinkling
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1/4 cup pecorino, finely grated
  • pinch of kosher sea salt flakes
  • fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

METHOD

  1. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan, preferably one with a lid, over medium heat.
  2. Tumble in the potatoes and add a pinch of salt. Mix to cover evenly in the oil. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent burning, or until the potatoes are evenly golden and tender. (You can cook the potatoes for longer – they will take about 30 minutes, so cover with foil if you your pan does not have a lid)
  3. Remove the lid an add the bacon pieces and garlic and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until the bacon is evenly coloured and cooked to your liking.
  4. Add the fresh herbs and toss through the potatoes and bacon.
  5. Use your mixing spoon to create four wells in the potato mixture, evenly spaced. Crack an egg into each well and cover the eggs and potatoes with a good sprinkling of grated pecorino. Cook, uncovered, over medium heat until the whites are firm and the yolks still soft.
  6. Remove from the heat and season with cracked black pepper and some extra fresh rosemary, thyme and pecorino.
  7. Lift the eggs and potato and bacon hash out of the pan with an egg slide. Serve immediately.

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Pumpkin, Strawberry and Gorgonzola ‘Traybake’ Salad

Okay, so I love a traybake. I love the simplicity, the lack of washing up, and the lack of plating up. But to be fair, this is more of a traybake-salad hybrid. In the spirit of the one-pan dinner (my preferred way to cook) you can literally take this one straight from the oven to the table with just a little artless assembly (my preferred way to assemble) along the way.

Half of the inspiration for this has been brewing in my mind for a few weeks now. My sister-in-law, Lilli, was going to be in town and asked if I’d like to meet for lunch after I finished up at work. We decided to meet at Old Friend bistro and bar on Pirie Street where I had caught up with, aptly, an old friend for lunch a few weeks before. By happy circumstance, my husband’s office was a street away and he was free for lunch, and our nephew, Christopher, and his girlfriend, Alice, were also around and free for lunch! Our lunch for two became an impromptu family catchup for six. The fabulous yet concise menu at Old Friend provides something to please everyone, yet it was Alice’s vegan roast pumpkin salad that was the table showstopper and the source of lots of plate envy: think thick wedges of roasted pumpkin with salad leaves, grilled stone fruit and accessorised with ruby red pomegranate jewels. It looked so beautiful on the plate that it has stuck in my mind as something I might one day try to replicate.

The other half of the inspiration for this recipe was a salad I made for a Christmas brunch a few years ago which consisted of baby spinach leaves, pecans, gorgonzola and strawberries. Blue cheese isn’t to everyone’s liking, and even if it isn’t your fromage du jour, I urge you to be open-minded: the sharp saltiness of the cheese is the perfect counterbalance to the sweetness of fruit, and this salad is a perfect example of how to make these flavours work in perfect harmony.

So, I have taken the essence of the strawberry, spinach and gorgonzola salad and coupled it with roasted pumpkin to create something that is sure to prove that you can, very much, make friends with salad!

 

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PUMPKIN, STRAWBERRY AND GORGONZOLA TRAYBAKE SALAD
Serves 4 as a main or 8 as an entree

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 large Jap pumpkin; seeds reserved
  • 100g pecans
  • 1 punnet strawberries; leaves removed, quartered
  • 2 large handfuls (about 120g) beetroot leaves (or rocket or baby spinach)
  • 100g pecan kernels
  • 180g Gorgonzola Dolce cheese
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • A good pinch of salt

METHOD

Preheat oven to 220C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Slice the pumpkin into 8 equal sized wedges and reserve the seeds. Separate the seeds and remove the stringy fibres. Arrange the pumpkin pieces on the tray so they are evenly spaced.

Sprinkle the pecans and pumpkin seeds evenly over the tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and a sprinkle of salt.

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Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender and the skin is a little coloured, being careful to roast but not burn the pecans. Do not to overcook or else the pumpkin will not hold its shape.

Meanwhile, in a small jar with a secure lid, add the honey, the remaining oil, and the balsamic vinegar. Shake vigorously to make a dressing making sure the honey is totally combined. Set aside.

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Remove the tray from the oven and distribute the leaves evenly over the pumpkin still in the tray. Then, evenly sprinkle over the quartered strawberries.

With your hands, break up the gorgonzola into small blobs and dot the salad with the cheese, then sprinkle over the sunflower seeds.

Give the jar of dressing a final shake and then drizzle a few tablespoons over the whole salad.

Place the whole tray on the table with a few salad servers and the jar of leftover dressing on the side, and let everyone help themselves.

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Pappardelle with Italian Sausage and Cime di Rapa

I will never forget the day I walked into Tony & Mark’s and saw something I hadn’t seen since I was a kid in my Nonno’s garden: a bunch of unappetising-looking weeds that could be mistaken for something that might have been salvaged from the greens bin. I’m not really selling this, I know, but you must understand how overjoyed I was to see I could purchase such wonderment in Australia! Unsurprisingly, I had quite a hard time convincing Matt that this was not only edible but delicious when he saw me chopping up the deep green stalks and leaves and adding them to the pan; however, despite taking his first bite with caution, he was quickly won over, and the seconds and thirds that were to at least cover us for lunch the next day were soon devoured. In fact, this pasta dish should perhaps be titled ‘The Other Pasta Matt Loves To Eat’; it is certainly a dish that is on rotation in our house when we are lucky enough to find the leafy bitter greens at the greengrocer.

Cime di rapa, or rapini or broccoli rabe, is a cruciferous vegetable that looks something like the lovechild of broccolini, rocket and English spinach. It’s tougher stalks give way to deep green large rough leaves with a sprinkling of broccolini-like florets. It is popular in southern Italian and Roman cuisine, often boiled then sautéed with olive oil, garlic and chilli as a side dish or as an accompaniment to sausage in a panino. The bitterness of the wilted greens seems to be the perfect companion to pork, chilli and garlic, and this recipe makes the most of the fire and caramelised butteriness that occurs when these flavours are allowed to infuse together.

You’ll have noticed by now that when I cook, and when I eat, I want full flavour with minimal effort, hence my preference for more rustic dishes. Also, I’m usually too impatient for finicky food when I’d rather be on the couch with a bowl of something comforting than fussing in the kitchen over something complicated. This is one such dish; the accompaniment is ready in the time it takes to boil the pasta. I say ‘accompaniment’ as this is not so much a sauce as it is some spiced sautéed ingredients tossed through some pasta. I specify using Italian pork sausages as opposed to pork mince; the higher fat content of the sausage provides a deeper flavour than pork mince and the texture is squeakier and uneven. Look for pure pork sausages, but if you can only find pork and fennel sausages, you may wish to halve the amount of fennel seeds or omit them altogether.

Rapini can be hard to find, though I have increasingly seen it sold in supermarkets, and tends to be available only seasonally through winter, unless you have access to seeds to grow them yourself or you know a good Italian gardener who will generously give you some. I have grown my own and it is not terribly demanding to harvest your own crop even in containers. Seeds can be purchased online from Franchi Sementi or The Italian Gardener; if you are in Adelaide, I purchased mine from Imma & Mario’s Mercato in Campbelltown. If you crave this pasta and rapini is not easy to acquire, a mixture of silverbeet or English spinach and broccolini make a reasonable substitute.

PAPPARDELLE CON SALSICCE E CIME DI RAPA
Pappardelle with Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g Egg Pappardelle
  • 6 Italian pork sausages (approx 450g), casings removed
  • 1 large bunch Cime di Rapa (Broccoli Rabe), roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon kosher sea salt flakes
  • Handful of finely grated pecorino + more for sprinkling
  • 1 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water

METHOD

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

Meanwhile, toast the fennel seeds and chilli flakes in a dry sauté pan over medium heat until fragrant.

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Add half the oil, onion and salt and sauté until the onions start to colour.

Add the sausage meat and cook until browned using a fork or wooden spook to break down the clumps.

Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook a few minutes to evaporate the alcohol.

Meanwhile, add the pasta to the pot of water and cook until al dente.

Add the nutmeg and the tougher cime di rapa stalks to the sausage and onion mixture first and cook for a few minutes until the stalks start to soften but still retain a little crunch. Then add the chopped leaves and the garlic and cook, stirring, until wilted.

By this time, the pasta should be cooked to al dente. Use tongs to lift the pasta from the pot and add straight to the pan with the sausage and wilted leaves. Add the remaining all and the grated pecorino as well as half the reserved starchy pasta cooking water. Toss to combine well adding more pasta water if needed to evenly coat the pappardelle and create a sauce.

Serve into bowls sprinkling with more cheese and dried chilli to taste.

Spaghetti A’Matt’riciana – or the Amatriciana Matt Loves To Eat!

There is something that seems so utterly right about eating Italian food which proudly and unapologetically reflects the colours of the Italian flag. When I do so, there’s a part of me that wonders just how patriotic Queen Margherita of Savoy must have felt when presented with a pizza made especially for her upon her visit to Napoli shortly after the unification of Italy; the combination of basil, mozzarella and tomato on a pizza base is famously thought to be named after her following this particular dining out experience.

Italian dishes are often named after the person who made it, where they made it or for whom it was made. Amatriciana receives its name from the town of Amatrice in the Lazio region, a mountainous area in central Italy, and from whence this sauce originates. My recipe for making this sauce, however, gets its name from my husband, Matt, who requests this pasta sauce more than any other – this is the Amatriciana that Matt loves to eat! Typical of the sugo all’Amatriciana are ingredients reflecting the national flag. Fiery dried chilli, blushing ripe tomatoes and rose-coloured guanciale (cured pig cheek, or alternatively pancetta or bacon) make up the brilliant red of the colour palette, while onions, garlic and pecorino provide the white. While not traditional of Amatriciana, I insist on the stalks and leaves from fragrant fresh basil, equal parts for the extra burst of flavour and for making up the full tricolore – why should Queen Margherita have all the fun?

I must insist that you only ever make Amatriciana with ripe fresh tomatoes – no tinned tomatoes or passata – and you will understand why when you make it. This is not a thick ragu-style sauce like it’s distant cousin from Bologna. Rather, the softened tomatoes and their juices coat the pasta thickened by the starchy water in which is was cooked, snagging flecks of tomato flesh and cured meat in the tangled web of the spaghetti. I must also insist that you do not drain your pasta in a colander or rinse it under water. The starchy water is a necessary ingredient to ensure an even thick coating of sauce over your pasta.

Bacon is perfectly suitable for this dish, though guanciale or pancetta are the ultimate indulgence if you can find it. I turn to this recipe so regularly for emergency dinners because there is usually always bacon in the freezer than can be quickly defrosted, tomatoes in the fridge, and onions, garlic and chilli on hand. If using bacon, you must use middle rashers, rind removed, with still some bacon fat evident that will render and infuse your sauce. You can use whatever pasta you want, but to make an authentic A’Matt’riciana, spaghetti or pappardelle should be favoured. However, my university food obsession was Tortellini Amatriciana – my Italian classes were usually later in the evening and a few classmates and I could often be found at Piatto on Rundle Street for a pre-class dinner: so began my 20+ year relationship with this sauce, preferably coating stuffed pasta belly-buttons (true story, this is what inspired the design of tortellini.)

Finally, invest in a good drinking dry white wine – you want about a cup for the pan and you will appreciate a glass or two while eating. Tonight’s choice, an Adelaide Hills Seabrook Pinot Grigio, was on point. There’s something about the way the dry wine counterbalances the acidic tomato and punchy chilli that is most satisfying.

I hope you will love to eat this as much as Matt does.

SPAGHETTI A’MATT’RICIANA (or the AMATRICIANA THAT MATT LOVES TO EAT!)
Serves 4 – 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g good quality dried spaghetti
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped into chunks
  • 400g bacon (middle rashers, rind removed), roughly cut into 1cm pieces; or guanciale or pancetta finely diced
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil; stalks finely chopped and leaves roughly shredded
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes, plus extra for sprinking
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 200ml dry white wine
  • salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup of water in which the pasta is cooked
  • grated pecorino cheese, to taste
  • A few tablespoons of fresh ricotta (optional)

METHOD

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil.

Meanwhile, in a large non-stick pan (one that can be covered securely with a lid), heat the oil over medium high heat. Add  onion, garlic, chilli flakes and basil stalks with a pinch of salt to prevent burning and sautee until softened but not browned.

Add the bacon (or guanciale or pancetta if using) to the pan and sautee until the meat softens and just takes on the slightest hint of colour. You do not want dry or crispy bacon pieces.

Add the tomatoes and combine with the sauteed onions then add the wine. Stir well then reduce the heat to medium, clamp on the lid and allow to simmer for 5 – 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened and starting to form a pulpy sauce. Check occasionally during simmering and help the tomatoes along by pressing them down with your spoon.

While the sauce is simmering, cook your spaghetti in the pot of salted water until al dente.

Once the pasta is cooked and the sauce has come together, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of the pasta water to the tomatoes and stir for about a minute or until the starchy water has thickened the sauce.

Use tongs to lift the spaghetti from the water and add it straight to the sauce. Sprinkle over a small handful of grated pecorino and the torn basil leaves and toss the pasta through the sauce to coat evenly. Add a little extra pasta water if needed, and taste to see if you want a little extra cheese.

Serve topped with fresh ricotta and more basil, dried chilli flakes and pecorino.

Crispy Chermoula Salmon and Couscous Salad

Making your own spice mixes and pastes seems overwhelming for midweek cooking, especially when you can save yourself the hassle and just buy something in a jar off the shelf. However, if you’re like me (and if you’re reading a food blog, you probably are) you like to make your own when you can because you know what is going into your food and you know you can’t beat the flavour of something you have made fresh yourself. Truth be told, making your own mixes and pastes is an effortless affair when you have a decent food processor to do the busy work for you. This chermoula paste could not be simpler; you could skip the extra minute it takes to toast the whole spices before adding them to the food processor if you were feeling particularly impatient, but to do so would see you miss out on the smoky warmth that this simple step gives your marinade.

Chermoula is a paste used as a marinade or relish prominent in Algerian, Libyan, Moroccan and Tunisian cuisine. While it is traditionally used to flavour seafood, it can be used on meats and vegetables, too. The first time I had chermoula it was as a relish pasted onto grilled lamb cutlets after they had been cooked – a herb sauce as opposed to a marinade. While chermoula pastes can vary from region to region, you will find garlic, cumin, coriander and lemon in almost every mixture.

Here, the chermoula is used as a thick textured marinade. You will notice the spices are toasted but not ground and I think it is important to retain the texture of the whole spices in this recipe; the coriander seeds, especially, cling to the salmon flesh and give a burst of spice when you crush them while eating that you don’t get with ground spices. The salmon is grilled in this recipe – not baked, but grilled under the griller element of the oven – which cooks the salmon flesh tenderly in around 7 minutes while producing a satisfyingly crispy bronze skin. Be sure to press as much of the chermoula paste into the salmon flesh sides and base before grilling, but remove excess paste from the skin to prevent burning.

The couscous salad is purposely not complicated with excess flavours from spices or stock as the chermoula marinade of the salmon really carries across the whole dish. Instead, the freshness of the cucumber, fresh herbs and tangy yoghurt cut through the complex spices, not to mention the sweet and sharp bursts of those ruby pomegranate jewels.

After experimenting with grilling salmon for this recipe, I think this is the only way I will cook crispy skinned salmon from this point on. I think you’ll be impressed with how perfectly it cooks through, too.

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CRISPY CHERMOULA SALMON AND COUSCOUS SALAD
Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 salmon fillets, equal sized, skin on

For the Chermoula Paste:

  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 long green chillis
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 piece fresh ginger (3cm length), peeled
  • 1/2 large bunch flat leaf parsley, leaves and stalks
  • 1/2 large bunch fresh mint, leaves and stalks
  • 1/2 large bunch fresh coriander, leaves and stalks
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 big pinch of kosher sea salt flakes (eg Maldon)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the Couscous Salad

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 large bunch fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 large bunch fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 large bunch fresh coriander leaves
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 80g pine nuts, toasted
  • seeds from one pomegranate

For the yoghurt dressing

  • 1/2 cup natural yoghurt (I like the creamy consistency of Tamar Valley Greek Style)
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • pinch of salt

METHOD

Prepare the Chermoula Paste and Salmon:

Toast the whole cumin and coriander seeds and the paprika together in a dry pan over high heat until slightly toasted and aromatic.

Place the toasted herbs into a food processor with all the remaining ingredients for the paste mix except for the oil.

Blitz on high speed while slowly adding the oil to the processor to form a thick paste.

Empty the paste into a large freezer or zip lock bag.

Place the salmon in the bag with the chermoula paste. Close the bag securely and use your hands to smoosh the paste all over the salmon. Set aside to marinade for 30 minutes or longer in the fridge. If marinading in the fridge for longer, be sure to bring the salmon to room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.

To cook the salmon:

Light the grill on your oven.

Line a baking tray with aluminium foil. Place a wire rack over the foil in the tray. Oil the rack with olive oil or cooking spray.

Place the salmon, skin side up, on the wire rack. Use a knife or spoon to remove the excess paste from the skin but try to press as much paste into the sides and base of the fish as you can – you want these flavours and texture!

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Place under the grill for about 6 – 8 minutes or until the skin of the salmon has browned and turned crispy, being careful not to burn it. (Mine was perfect at 7 minutes).

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Remove from the oven and use an egg slide to carefully lift the salmon from the rack. The salmon will be succulent and tender so be careful and gentle when lifting.

Serve atop the couscous salad with a dollop of yoghurt.

To make the salad:

Place the couscous in a large bowl with a tablespoon of butter. Pour over the boiling water. Cover and set aside for about 5 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed.

Fluff up the cooked couscous with a fork.

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Add the cucumber, chickpeas and chopped leaves.

Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds and pine nuts.

To make the yoghurt sauce:

Combine the salt, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Check for flavour and add more salt, juice or garlic if you wish.

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‘Stolen’ Lamb and Potato Packets

The idea for this recipe really started in the 15th Century, when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire. A band of highwaymen turned self-appointed resistance fighters, descendants of the Greeks who took refuge in the country regions to resist and oppose the looming Ottoman rule, became known as the Klephts.  These men were often bandits trying to avoid taxes, debts, vendettas against them, or on the run from Ottoman officials. They survived by ransacking travellers and settlements while they hid in the mountains and dense countryside. Famously, they would steal lambs and goats and cook the meat with potatoes, or whatever they could find, in fire pits dug into the ground. The pits would be filled with hot coals, the meat and vegetables wrapped in a parcel, and the pit would be covered over with dirt so that no smoke or fire could be seen, concealing  their whereabouts from those who might be out to get them. The Greeks call meat and potatoes cooked this way ‘kleftiko’. The word kleftis in Greek means ‘thief’ and without sounding like the Dad in ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ it isn’t hard to see the root of the traditional Greek word in words like kleptomaniac, a person who has the compulsion to steal.

In the spirit of the Klephts, I have remorselessly stolen the idea for my own meat and potato packets. I had the idea for making some sort of ‘food pack’ for dinner when we had a group of people over for a bonfire night. Ideally, I wanted something that we could cook in coals to christen our new fire pit; I wanted something fitting for sitting around a campfire – I wanted some sort of gourmet campfire cuisine. It also happened to be the case that majority of people at this bonfire night were Greek, so it seemed apt and brave to make something Greek inspired for dinner. I wasn’t game enough to try cooking them on the coals, so I relied on my oven which did the job perfectly.

There are so many things to love about this dish. You can prepare this well ahead of time and keep the foil parcels in the fridge to infuse the flavours taking them out an hour before you’re ready to cook to come to room temperature. You can use whatever meat and vegetables you like. The first time I made these for the bonfire night I used chuck steak, potatoes, green beans, capsicum and zucchini and they were a hit. I don’t know that I would use zucchini and capsicum again, though, as these vegetables tend to give off a lot of extra water, but cooking is all about experimentation after all. If using chicken, go for cuts like thigh which will not dry out. Also, this is rustic cooking at its best: once you prepare the parcels and pop them in the oven, it is really set and forget, whether you are making this for one, two or ten people, and presentation is really not a factor. Every person has their own parcel to open, there’s no fancy plating up, and if you eat them straight from the packet as the Klephts might have, there is minimal washing up. Above all, the foil parcels ensure that the meat cooks tenderly and the trapped steam ensures the contents are infused totally with garlicky, salty, citrusy and herby flavours that make up the spice mix.

An easy herbed yoghurt sauce, a squeeze of lemon juice, some grilled pita wedges and a quick Greek salad helps to make this a complete meal. Or try my Warm Greek Bean Salad to complement this on a cold night whether on the couch in front of the heater or around your own camp fire.

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‘STOLEN’ LAMB AND POTATO PACKETS
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 350g lean lamb, diced
  • 2 – 3 good roasting potatoes (I used Royal Blues), peeled and cut into 1.5cm slices
  • 2 teaspoons dried orgeano, plus more for sprinkling later
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons soft butter (not melted)
  • About a teaspoon each of salt and pepper
  • A small handful of mint, roughly shredded (optional)

For the herbed yoghurt dressing you will need

  • 4 Tablespoons Greek natural yoghurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • zest and juice from the remaining half lemon
  • A good pinch or two of salt
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200C (fan forced).

Place meat, potatoes, garlic, nutmeg, lemon juice and zest, salt pepper, oregano and rosemary and half the butter into a large bowl.

 

Mix together with your hands, making sure you smother the meat and potatoes totally with the herbs and the butter. You may need to squeeze the butter with your hands to help soften it and ensure even coverage of the spices and butter all over the meat and potatoes.

Cut 2 pieces of aluminium foil per packet, about 40cm lengths, and lay them criss-crossed one on top of the other.

Place half the potatoes in the centre of the top piece of foil then arrange the meat on top of the potatoes. Give another quick sprinkle with seasoning if you think it needs it. Place half the remaining butter on top of the meat.

Bring up the ends of the top piece of foil to begin creating your packet, totally covering the meat and potatoes. Now do the same with the bottom piece of foil. You have created your first packet!

Now create your second packet using another two piece of foil, placing potatoes on the foil first, then meat, a little extra seasoning if you wish, and the remaining butter.

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Place both parcels on a baking tray and cook in the oven for one hour.

While the parcels are cooking, add a clove of minced garlic, a good pinch of salt, a tablespoon of chopped mint, the zest and juice from the remaining half lemon to four tablespoons of natural yoghurt and mix thoroughly to combine to make your herbed yoghurt topping.

 

Use a tea towel or tongs to tip the parcels upside down for a few seconds before opening to give the meat and potatoes a quick coat with the melted butter, careful not to lose any of the juices from the packet.

Open the packets and top with the herbed yoghurt dressing, a lemon cheek, a sprinkling of dried oregano and some fresh chopped mint before serving.

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Let’s Talk Traybakes: Chicken and Chorizo

Let’s face it, you’re a busy working mum – regardless of gender. You have a partner and a house full of offspring, you’re the parent of fur-babies, or you are the urban professional singleton with a lot going on. Your week is hectic trying to fit in work, gym, housework, wine time with your mates, family obligations and generally functioning as a human being. And as much as you love having people around your table to share a meal you have prepared, sometimes it’s the last thing you need on your one night free when really all you want to do is sit on the couch, binge watch old episodes of ‘Will & Grace’ in your loosest fitting clothes and drink Prosecco straight from the bottle. Well, I can tell you, this crowd pleasing feed-an-army recipe is almost as effortless as pouring yourself another glass of wine. I think we all have room in our lives for a recipe like that.

Whether people are coming around for a midweek dinner or a weekend lunch, I almost always turn to this recipe. And it makes sense: tray-bakes are not so much cooking as they are throwing ingredients into a pan, tossing them in oil and spices, and whacking them in the oven for a good hour. As for plating up, dress some salad leaves in whatever you have patience for and put both the salad and tray-bake on the table with multiple tongs and serving spoons, and let everyone serve themselves. Done. We love eating this way when friends come over as it is the very essence of what sharing food and sharing good company is all about, not slaving away in a kitchen for hours trying to out-Heston yourself. Entertaining should be casual, relaxed and…entertaining, for the host too.

I have been converted to the simplicity of tray-bakes for dinner parties since my sister-in-law first made this particular recipe for us one night, so don’t be surprised when you see more tray-bake recipes on my blog in the future. In fact, a risotto stuffed tomato and a Maltese style chicken or lamb tray bake are two of the other dishes that are very regularly created in my oven and are already earmarked for future posts – the tomato traybake can be served vegetarian (so long as your vegetarian friends don’t mind a little pecorino cheese) or can be porked up with Italian sausages. The convenience of tray-bakes is not just the simplicity of a meal-in-a-tray or that you end up with only a couple of trays and a salad bowl to wash up, it is also the fact that you can prepare this hours ahead of time, wrap in cling wrap or foil and keep it in the fridge until you are ready to bake; doing so often means the protein has more time to infuse the flavour and fragrance of the spices and seasoning making for a delicious roast later on. Just bring the trays out of the fridge half an hour before you are ready to bake to bring to room temperature and away you go.

This tray-bake, however, is Nigella Lawson‘s, straight from her book Nigella Kitchen. Nigella is not called the Domestic Goddess for nothing, she has many recipes for different tray-bakes for easy and satisfying entertaining that are worth trying out, but this has become a household favourite. The original recipe can be found on her website but the recipe below is written the way I make it. One adjustment I have made is the addition of smoked Spanish Paprika which just gives the chicken some extra warmth. Nigella also specifies to use chicken thighs with the bone and skin still on, and while I agree that it is totally necessary to use chicken pieces with the bone and skin on to keep the chicken moist and to absorb the flavours of the chorizo and herbs, I prefer to buy a couple of packets of mixed portions so your guests can choose between a medley of wings, breasts, legs and thighs (sounds racier than I intend); my sister-in-law often uses just drumsticks.

While the original recipe caters for 6, I find the best rule of thumb is adjust the recipe based on the number of people around your table – I have made this for 8 – 10 people as many times as I can remember making it for 4 – 6. The following is a good guide:

  • 2 decent sized chicken portions per person + a few extra pieces in case some are particularly hungry or if you want leftovers (more on that later)
  • 3 – 4 baby chat potatoes or one large potato per person
  • 1 chorizo (approx 15cm) between two people + one ‘for the pan’
  • Make sure you have enough space on your tray that you don’t end up ‘stewing’ your bake in juices. If you are making this for 10 – 12 people, you might want 3 trays going in your oven if your oven can handle it

The photographs on this post show the recipe made for 4 people – with a little left over.

Leftovers the next day are good chopped up, mixed together with some fresh parsley and a diced fresh tomato, quickly panfried to heat through in an ovenproof pan – pour over four or so beaten eggs (or enough to cover the chopped chicken and veg in the frypan) and pop in a moderate oven until the eggs firm up and turn golden on top: leftover Spanish chicken and chorizo tortilla. Boom.

This is one of those dishes we love to eat regularly. Word of advice – be generous with the chorizo because that’s what everyone ends up picking at!

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SPANISH CHICKEN, CHORIZO AND POTATO TRAY BAKE
Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 chicken portions, skin on, bone in (you could use a whole chicken, jointed) (see note above re adding extra pieces if you think you need)
  • 4 chorizo, cut into 2 – 3cm pieces
  • 18 baby chat potatoes, halved, or 5 large potatoes, quartered – unpeeled
  • 6 cloves garlic, unpeeled, bruised
  • 2 red onions, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • zest from one orange
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 200C (fan forced)
  2. Put a tablespoon of oil in two shallow roasting tins or trays. You need a tray with a bit of a lip as the chicken and chorizo can give off a bit of juice.
  3. Divide the chicken pieces between the two trays then rub the skin side of the chicken in the oil to coat evenly.
  4. Divide the potatoes, chorizo, onions and garlic between the two trays and toss together with the chicken a few times. Evenly distribute the chicken, chorizo, potatoes and garlic across the trays ensuring the chicken is well-spaced and skin-side up.
  5. Grate the orange zest over the trays, then sprinkle with paprika and oregano. If you are preparing this in advance, cover with foil or cling wrap and place in the oven. Remove the trays from the fridge half an hour before baking to bring to room temperature.
  6. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes then baste the potatoes, chorizo and chicken with the juices in the pan. Swap the top tray with the bottom tray in the oven and bake and extra 30 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear when poked with a skewer and the potatoes and chicken appear golden.
  7. Sprinkle over with chopped parsley and serve straight on the table, in the pans, with enough tongs for people to help themselves, and salad leaves dressed with extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar or lemon juice, salt and pepper.