Tuesday 24 March 2015

Tropical North Qld inspired Pasta!

Tropical North Queensland

inspired our Pasta/Masta Class!

As a 14 year old visiting  Cairns & staying at the Y.M.C.A,  travelling with my sisters, 2 yr old brother, mum & dad by Sunlander, tripping around all the beautiful beaches & Tablelands, I vowed I would live in North Qld.  
That wasn't my plan when I met Stephen, but it culminated in my living in the North Queensland town of Ayr, for 12 years. We worked & raised our first 2 children outside of town until we moved to Brisbane 25 yrs ago. We often drove north to visit cairns or the tablelands or south to the Whitsundays. Last year, my daughter & I stayed at Palm Bay on Long Island. PARADISE!!!

While living in Ayr I learnt a few recipes from Stephens' Nonna & Zia. The pasta making was a new experience, using anything we could hang the spaghetti over (rods 'tween 2 chairs etc) to dry.

It takes a little mastering & is best to have an extra set of hands. Today, I have 3 extra sets of hands & it was all about Teamwork.
Jaimi, Nonna, Lily & camera shy Callum!
Eggs & Flour 

We had fun & enjoyed eating our work. Homemade Pasta has a very  light texture. It's delicious with a dob of butter, sprinkle of salt, pepper & parmesan cheese
Our first attempt at the dough was a disaster.
The dough was too wet!

Some chefs' use Semolina & double zero flour, but Nonna used ordinary plain flour when she showed me. The measurements Nonna showed me was a small bag of plain flour & 10 fresh eggs the hens laid in the back yard.

We used baking paper on the bench, for easier cleaning. Each child took a turn cracking the eggs into the flour. We stirred in the eggs & as it started to mix they all helped mix the dough. They put their hands into the flour, so the wet mixture wouldn't stick to their hands. If the mixture is too sticky, add a little flour at a time until you can kneed the dough. Eggs may vary in size, so the mixture can be inconsistent, that's when you add the extra flour, if it's wet.
Knead the dough until it feels silky & smooth. The longer you knead the dough the more aldente the pasta will be when you cook it.
I prefer it lighter, so I don't over-mix the dough.

We rolled the dough into a log shape & wrapped it in Plastic until we were ready to roll it. Give it 30 mins or longer.

The cutting & rolling out the pasta needs teamwork. Jaimi cut the dough & fed it through the rollers, Callum turned the handle, which needs precision, not rushing it. Lily caught the pasta as it came out of the rollers.

Each time we passed the sheet through the rollers we decreased the gap to make it the thickness we wanted to cook.

Then when we had the thickness, we ran it through the cutters on the machine. Once again, it has various cutters to produce the spaghetti shape you desire.

Now the grand-kids had a rest break, 
as it was exhausting work, kneading, behaving, listening.


Cooking up the pasta in salted, boiling water. My simple recipe to don pasta, is frying up diced onion, garlic & rosemary in butter, tossing it through the pasta with freshly grated Romana or Parmesan cheese. The grandkids love my Beef Bolongnaise Sauce. 

Feeling Tropically Inspired, fresh Fruit Salad with seasonal fruit is next.
Making our own pasta is very simple way of getting back to our roots. An age when we had chooks & vegetable gardens in almost every back yard. Most of my travelling experiences have been in Australia, but seeing many travel to Oz, I guess we've got the advantage of enjoying our home land & all it has to offer. 

Please ask questions if my instructions aren't clear. I would love to hear and reply to any comments. Monika

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Tantalising Lebanese Cooking!

Tantalising Tastebuds with Lebanese Cooking!

Another jaunt across town to Putia Restaurant at Banyo, a suburb I spent some time in as a kid, visiting my Oma & cousins. Putia is well worth the visit, very relaxing pretty location & the food is Delicious

Putias' Menu is based on very fresh, seasonal & local produce.Chef Dominique Rizzos' passion comes from her Italian Heritage,cooking Italian Cuisine but referring to her food as Mediterranean. It's an Organic Passion for Food & Dominique is a genuine, beautiful lady. 

So an introduction to the equally lovely lady Ada Daher! Ada describes herself as a home cook & like myself, loves cooking up a Storm for her Family. 

Again another culinary journey to a Mediterranean destination, Lebanon. After a browse through the established vegetable & fresh herb garden, I relaxed in the ambiance of the outdoor setting covered by a huge Poinciana Tree.

Beginning with a refreshing drink of home-made Lemonade & fresh herbed Punch, we were introduced to the other guests, donned aprons up then introduced to the order of the night. Starting with preparation, of ingredient of recipes that we would use later in the class. 

First preparing the dough for Honey Puffs, then the dough for the Spinach Pastries. Syrup for the Sweet Cheese & Honey Puffs.

The preparation of the vegetables next, slicing eggplant & frying. Chopping florets of cauliflower to fry for another dish. We all shared in the prep. Back at our work bench, we washed spinach & parsley, then chopped it finely. Plenty of garlic & onions, some lemons freshly juiced, sultanas,  pine nuts & Feta for the pastries. This mix could easily pass as a salad. 
The finished pastry reminded me of a similar one a friend made in smaller crescent shaped pastries filled with olives.

Frying up sliced Eggplant & mince for Scheik el mihshi. 

Fried Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce & Prawns.

Making Tahini was interesting, as the sesame paste gets thicker as you add the liquid. Knowing when to stop adding the liquid is the key. 
The Mediterranean recipes often call for Honey & Sultanas in the savoury food. Greek friends of mine always have finger food, such as the crescent shaped olive filled pastries, egg& sultana savoury pastries, Taramousalata (greek caviar dip)! YUM, YUM, YUM...

Halawat El jibni, Sweet Cheese, was a very interesting process & delicious. 
A first for me was eating Honey Puffs,
 scoops of gooey pastry dropped into hot oil,
 cooked then dropped into the sugar syrup prepared earlier. 
Apparently, a heavier texture compared to greek honey puffs 
& I thought similar to a doughnut pastry. 

But once again very enjoyable. 

Time to put together the Pasties with spinach & feta filling.
Having prepared the dough earlier, rolling it in a log, covered & resting it, we sliced it into pieces then learned how to roll, the thickness kneaded (needed), we filled the pastry with the prepared spinach mix & a scoop of soft feta. The pastries were then baked for 10 mins in the oven.

After layering up the Sheik el mihshi, eggplant, cooked lamb mince, tahini sauce, finely chopped tomatoes & parsley, then the Cauliflower with Tahini & Prawns, it was nearly time to taste the food.

When we started, I thought, pastry, deep frying, sweets, aahh, BUT it was a very well balance meal & delicious. 


Most of the flavour in the class was from garlic in the tahini sauce. I tasted the cooked mince & found it didn't have any seasonings in it & had wondered, why not use cumin or a spice, BUT the Tahini sauce added all the flavour it needed. A beautiful balance of flavours.

Thank you Dominique & Ada for a lovely night off.  
Now  a new meal, I cooked for a lunch with limited ingredients, that fell in with my Healthy Eating. 
Eggplant, Haloumi Cheese, Spinach, Capsicum & a drizzle of lemon juice. A finger food, I picked up the section, curved the eggplant & bit into the layers. 
Prep: Peeling the eggplant & sliced, fry it in butter, along with the capsicum & haloumi, layer & eat. 

Buon appettito!

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Tantalising Indian Cuisine!

Tantalising Tastebuds! on Indian Cooking...

A day with the Charismatic May Isaac in Kenmore Hills, was again an enjoyable experience. It was a treat to myself, beginning with a drink, in a tropical setting by the pool & Oven Baked Vegetable Samosa's. 

After meeting the other guests, we were introduced into The Art of preparing Coffee & Tea in India.
As May demonstrates the procedure, she takes you on a journey into India, regaling memories of her childhood in India & her Venture outside into The Modern World.

May constantly transports you on a journey to India with the use of Herbs, Spices & food from different regions. After checking into the kitchen studio, a visit to the garden to pick seasonal herbs & spices. In a reasonably small area, there was a substantial array of plants. We were introduced to herb by crushing, tasting & smelling the foliage. After cutting stems, leaves, berries & fruit, May brought out a treat, a Palette Cleanser on a Beetle Leaf. It was the most delicious natural sweet treat I've tasted.

Returning to the kitchen a lesson on preparing perfect rice. There are hundreds of different rices, today's rice was Basmati.

" Spices & Herbs" peppers, cinnamon, star anise, brown cardamon, cloves, allspice berries, bayleaves, tulsie, lemon verbena, mint, paprika, borage (5 herb plant), vanilla orchid, mustard, ginger, tumeric, galangal, white tumeric, white wasabi, horseradish, apple mint, vietnamese mint, perpetual coriander, mushroom herb & more...

Salt was the next introduction, Himalayan, Black Indian Salt, tasting the salts for the different flavours. The pungent taste of a black salt was the sulphur content & tasted of boiled egg. You can imagine how this salt would add flavour to bland food, especially if you were short of ingredients.

May continued on by making a refreshing Iced Tea
 from our collection from the garden.

Prepared ingredients for a smooth cook-up makes life easier in the Kitchen. Chicken Curry is the first recipe we cooked, It's amazing the spices that go into this recipe. May explains how cooking the ingredients releases the flavours & aromas to perfect the final result. 

Prawn Vindaloo was next on the menu, this recipe originated from Goa  &  is Anglo-Indian. Easily adaptable with Pork or Chicken.

The group paired off into couples to prepare 4 Baked Fish recipes, wrapped in paper, banana leaves & foil.

Making Indian Breads took some energy in kneading. First we made Chapattis, then Puris. May prepared a potato & mince dish to be eaten with Puris. 

So the tasting began!  When the bread was cooked on a hot flat skillet, it was time to serve up the dishes. The Chicken was hot & spicy for me, but delicious! Couldn't fault the Prawns! After tasting the 4 Fish dishes, I preferred the Asian Style Fish in paper.  The Puris enveloping the mince & potato was very morish, likening it to hollow potato scallop filled with mince. 

Puris Aloo Masala "Spiced Potatoes"

My photos that follow will show you the process of making Puris & Chapattis.
The puris were kneaded, rolled, flattened with a rolling pin, then dipped into hot oil to fry. Mine is the flat one on the left, while the one on the right puffed up and separated when cooked.
The Chapattis from the same mix, were larger     fried on a hot flat skillet.

The finger in the dough, shows when the dough has been kneaded enough. When it doesn't spring back, it's ready to roll. 

My first experiment with new found flavours, were Poached Pears.

I cut my pears in half & cored them. Then added
a good splash of Dolcetta & Syrah, a fruity, ripe raspberry flavoured wine. A cinnamon stick, a Star Anise & a dried bay leaf (as far I know it was a bay leaf, but it had a lemon scented aroma).
I simmered & turned the pears twice, so they'd end up on their flat side, then reduced the Jus to a caramel, sticky gooey sauce. True to Low Carb High Fat, I served them up with Fresh Cream. 

After cooking most of my life with very basic flavour, I want to learn to experiment, but get to know the flavours of these different herbs & spices, know where they'll work well & gently enhance my cooking to excite the Palette! I love the smell of Star Anise, a lovely licorice smell.

May Isaac started her business with pre-packing herbs & spices specific to different Indian recipes. May hosts Indian Cooking Classes in the Kenmore Hills suburb of Leafy Western Brisbane.