These Ricotta and Spinach Triangles were the very first things I learnt to make (sort of) when I arrived in Melbourne 12 years ago to begin my foundation studies (pre-uni) program. The orientation camp included 3 nights stay in one of the residential colleges and listed on the itinerary was ‘Cooking Class’. And you guessed it, these Filo pastries were on the menu. Back then, I had not heard or seen ricotta and I got very excited when they showed us sheets of paper thin Filo. What they then demonstrated was very basic as we were on a tight schedule moving from one program to the next (I remember playing croquet afterwards – yawn!) So, it was just ricotta, chopped spinach, salt and pepper, pre-layered filo pastry by the college chefs and bang bang bang ! Cooking class was over! All we did was spoon the mixture onto the pastry and fold them up into triangles! Haha
Anyway, I got an itch to make these after watching the return of Masterchef Australia 2012 series 4 and that meant the Perfect Italiano Man ad was back! Yes, I am obsessed with that ad campaign because the sensitive Romeo (who chops wood, knits and practices his ‘listening’ face ) selling the range of cheeses is so OTT (over the top). I mean, who comes up with ‘Sometimes When I Cook, I Weep’? It’s so hair-raisingly Cheesy (pun intended of course) that it’s awesome! I love it! To watch the videos, click on the following links:-
Right. Back to my Filo Triangles, I cut the pastry lengthwise into two so each triangle is quite large. If you prefer petite triangles to serve as appetizers, you could always cut the filo widthwise into thinner strips. I added pinenuts to the filling and this just imparts a sweet nutty bite to the otherwise creamy ricotta. The sharp parmesan and spring onions add a bit of contrasting tang to the filling as well. Brushed with melted butter between each filo layer and lastly on top (which imparts a burnt butter flavour when baked), these are so tasty, they make a meal on its own.
Ricotta & Spinach Filo Triangles
makes 7-8 large triangles
500 g ricotta cheese (you don’t have to use Perfect Italiano, fresh ricotta from your local delicatessen will do)
150 g – 200g baby spinach leaves
90 g pinenuts, toasted
120 g grated sharp parmesan cheese
3 spring onion/scallion leaves, chopped
Handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
grated rind from 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
cracked black pepper to taste
1 box of Filo pastry
100g butter, melted
- Pour boiling hot water onto the baby spinach leaves; leave for about a minute; drain and refresh with cold water; squeeze out as much liquid as you can and roughly chop the spinach.
- Combine the chopped spinach with the ricotta, toasted pinenuts, grated parmesan, egg, spring onions, parsley, lemon rind and juice, salt and pepper and mix well.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180OC.
- Working with the filo 1 sheet at a time, brush the first layer of filo with melted butter, place the second sheet on top of the first and brush with melted butter; repeat until you have a total of four layers.
- Slice the layered filo sheet lengthwise into two; spoon a heap tablespoon of filling onto the left bottom corner of one strip; fan out the filling into somewhat of a triangle. Fold upwards to the right to form a triangle. Continue upwards in a zigzag pattern and tuck in, fold or trim off the excess pastry at the end.
- Repeat steps 4 and 5 until all filling’s used up.
- Brush the top of each filo triangle with melted butter and bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes until brown and crispy.
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Mmmm..Cinnamon Doughnuts…Me likey, makes me feel warm and fuzzy
I don’t usually deep-fry anything as I find clean-up a hassle but once in awhile when doughnut craving takes over (which is quite rare), I’ll take that original style thank you: fried not baked. I wanted to bypass all the kneading and cutting of the usual ‘O’ shaped doughnut so a quick perusal of my cookbook collection landed me Karen Martini’s no-knead drop doughnuts! Perfect! I decided to omit the chocolate cardamom custard that accompanies the already delicious cinnamon sugar treats but just to take sinful up a notch, I doused half of the doughnuts with melted dark chocolate! It’s called drop doughnuts because you literally drop spoonfuls of rested dough batter into the hot oil. Keeps well for 2-3 days but best enjoyed warm and fresh! If you have an injection nozzle or pastry syringe, you could even pipe in some strawberry jam/jelly and oooooohhh salted caramel or just enjoy them plain with warm cinnamon and sugar like I do; whatever tickles your fancy.
Chocolate-drenched doughnuts says ‘Eat me!’
Drop Cinnamon Doughnuts
(adapted from Cinnamon Doughnuts with Chocolate and Cardamom Custard by Karen Martini: Cooking At Home)
1 tsp dried yeast
4 tablespoons warm water
50 g castor sugar
400 ml milk
60 g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
580 g plain flour
vegetable oil, for deep-frying
1/2 cup pure icing sugar
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon ( I used 2 tsp cinnamon)
- Combine the yeast, water and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Place the milk in a saucepan over medium heat and bring almost to the boil, then remove from the heat.
- Place butter, salt and remaining sugar in a large bowl and pour in the hot milk.; whisk until all the ingredients have dissolved, then set aside to cool.
- When cool, add the yeast mixture and eggs, and stir in the flour until the mixture is smooth; cover and rest at room temperature for 1 hour.
- Heat the oil to 170oC in a deep-fryer or large saucepan and deep-fry tablespoons of the doughnut mixture until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towels
- Combine the icing sugar and ground cinnamon and dust over the doughnuts.
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A bag of oranges laid on the kitchen floor. I juiced some and they were pretty sour; very juicy but tart! So I decided to make orange chicken the same way I would lemon chicken. The dish turned out really fantastic; the interplay of sticky sweet, tangy and spicy flavours coating the juicy pan-fried chicken made it a mouthwatering dish. In fact I think I now prefer this to lemon chicken, the depth of flavour from the orange juice and zest was simply delectable. Reduced with sugar, chopped garlic and bird’s eye chilies, it almost resembled chili jam. I coated the chicken with a salt and pepper cornflour mix before frying them as this creates a crispy outer layer which the orange sauce will adhere to nicely.
Sticky Orange Chicken
4 chicken thigh fillets ( approximately 650 g)
60 g cornflour
2 tsp salt and pepper mix (click here for the salt and pepper mix)
1 cup oil, for frying
Juice from 3 navel oranges
Grated zest from all 3 oranges
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 bird’s eye red chilies (chili padi), finely chopped
2 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tbsp raw sugar (add 1/2 tbsp more if you like it really sweet)
- Trim off the excess fat from the chicken.
- Add the salt and pepper mix to the cornflour; mix well. Heat the oil in a 9-inch pan/skillet until hot (180oC); coat each chicken thigh fillet well with the flour and shake off excess before adding to the hot oil.
- Reduce to medium heat and fry the first side for 7 – 8 minutes. Turn the chicken fillets and cook the next side until golden brown; this might take less time than the first side
- Transfer chicken to a clean chopping board; wait for them to cool slightly before cutting into chunks in thirds or fourths.
- Discard most of the oil from the pan (you may reserve this for future use) but leave around 2 tablespoons of the pan drippings ( oil + residue from frying the chicken); reheat this, add the chopped garlic and chili and fry until fragrant. Add in the orange juice, zest, light soy sauce and stir in the sugar; bring to the boil then reduce to medium heat and cook, continuously stirring until the sauce is thick and sticky.
- Add the chopped chicken to the pan and coat evenly with sauce.
- Serve (goes well with steamed rice)
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After a 10 month hiatus from blogging, I am back and boy am I struggling for words. To summarise , I was expecting and whilst cooking didn’t exactly slow down during my pregnancy, I stuck to what’s familiar. Actually correction, I didn’t really want to experiment with new recipes as pregnancy hormones distorted my taste buds; even foods that I previously loved tasted off to me. Can you believe I couldn’t even stand chocolate for the first two trimesters? And in the non-veg department, I had to force myself to eat red meat when my iron levels went down ( a far cry from the meat-lover I once was) plus ingesting anything dairy would be followed by severe nausea and you know where that ends up at or rather in But as amazingly strange and how quickly these aversions came about, as soon as baby J was born, my taste buds went back to what it used to be; I know this because Milo tasted wonderful again and it stayed in
Well, baby J is keeping me occupied, grounded and entertained these days and I love my little chubby munchkin to bits. With the awesome help of my mom for the first 2 months and now my in-laws, I can once again indulge in some cooking albeit simpler endevours as time will be spent mostly on baby J and also my other passion – crocheting, which I hope to turn into a small enterprise.
Baby J wearing the On Nom (from Cut the Rope) beanie I crocheted
So for baby J’s Full Moon celebration, usually observed by the Chinese when a baby turns one month old, I decided to make the traditional Angku Kueh, translated from hokkien to ‘red tortoise’ glutinous rice cakes. Tortoise because these sticky rice cakes are commonly moulded into a symbolic tortoise shape, which denotes longevity. Traditionally the announcement of a baby boy is symbolized by the giving of tortoise-shaped Angkus and peach-shaped kuehs for girls. These days however, the tortoise shaped moulds are more commonly sold and they come in both wooden and plastic forms. These tender, chewy Angkus are usually filled with a creamy, fragrant and sweet split pea/mung bean paste although you can also find variations such as ground peanuts, red bean and black sesame pastes or sweet shredded coconut fillings. My mother-in-law mentioned that in the past, the Angku skins were made purely from a dough of glutinous rice flour and water but some genius figured out that by adding mashed steam potatoes to the dough, you end up with a more tender skin which doesn’t harden so much when left overnight. I made the Angkus 2 days before baby J’s Full Moon celebration; they will harden slightly especially in cold weather AND definitely in the fridge so it’s just a quick task of re-steaming the Angkus for 3-5 minutes to make it soft and yummy again. To accompany my Angkus, I also dyed some hard-boiled eggs red for my guests; another auspicious symbol to welcome our precious baby boy
(adapted from Nonya Flavours: A Complete Guide to Penang Straits Chinese Cuisine)
(My notes are in italics)
300 g split green beans (mung beans), washed and soaked overnight
2 pandan leaves, knotted
300 g caster sugar (I personally find this amount too sweet so I’ve reduced the sugar to 200 g for my Angkus)
4 tbsp oil (I use extra light olive oil, doesn’t make a difference as it a neutral-tasting cooking oil, you can use peanut oil if you wish)
1/8 tsp orange-red colouring (add more if you prefer a more vibrant skin)
300 ml water (I use warm water)
400 g glutinous rice flour
150 g orange sweet potato, peeled, steamed and mashed (steam for anywhere between 20-30 minutes until soft)
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp oil
1 banana leaf, cut into rectangles to fit the size of the Angku mould (I use frozen banana leaves; you can find them in asian grocery stores in Melbourne. Thaw and wash thoroughly before cutting)
1 tbsp oil for greasing
- Steam the split green beans and pandan leaves over rapidly boiling water for 30 minutes, or until soft and mushy. Discard pandan leaves.
- Mash the steamed split green beans with a fork, potato masher or blend it in a food processor until smooth.
- Combine the mashed steamed beans, sugar and oil in a wok. Stir continuously over medium heat until beans and sugar becomes thick and binds together, and will not stick to the hands.
- Cool and shape the filling into balls to suit the size of the Angku mould. Keep covered with a damp towel. (I pack my Angkus with filling so my individual rolled up fillings are almost the same size as my dough balls)
- To make the skin, first add the colouring to the water, and mix all the ingredients together and knead, adding the water bit by bit, to get a smooth dough. This can be done in a mixer with a dough hook, or by hand. Divide into suitably sized balls to fit the size of the mould. (The dough should come together smoothly and must not be too soft; if it is, add a bit more glutinous rice flour. Keep dough covered with a damp tea towel to prevent them drying up and cracking)
- To assemble, flatten a piece of dough to 0.5 cm (1/4″) thickness. Put a ball of filling in the center and wrap skin over the filling to cover it completely. Roll lightly between the palms to smoothen the surface.
- Lightly dust Angku kueh mould with glutinous rice flour and press the filled ball of dough into the mould. Knock mould gently against the table to dislodge the Angku and turn it out.
- Place Angku on a lightly greased banana leaf. Steam over medium heat for 8 – 10 minutes, opening the lid every 5 minutes to depressurise. (My wooden Angku Kueh mould is quite small so I steam mine for 7 minutes)
- Lightly brush the steamed Angku with oil. When cooled, trim the banana leaf neatly around the base of the Angku with a pair of scissors ( I usually omit this step)
- It is important to lightly grease the Angkus with oil so they don’t stick together. Space them apart on the steaming plate as they will expand during steaming.
- Freshly steamed Angkus are extremely sticky so it’s best to leave them to cool for about 15 minutes before handling and packing them away if not consumed straightaway. Once cooled, these greased Angkus can be stacked together in a container and kept outside under room temperature for 2-3 days. You may also freeze the Angkus for another occasion. Just thaw the Angkus slightly and re-steam over rapidly boiling water for 4-5 minutes.
The Angku Mould my mom bought me from Malaysia
Soaked split green beans/mung beans ready to be steamed and then mashed or blended
Cooking the green bean filling with oil and sugar (this photo was from my first attempt and I didn’t process the steamed green beans into a smooth paste so there were bits of split peas left which some say gives it bit of texture/bite although I myself prefer it smooth)
filled and moulded Angkus, ready to be steamed
Yummy, sticky sweet Angkus. Notice how the colour deepens when the kuehs are cooked
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Fresh Tagliatelle all’Amatriciana with grated pecorino cheese
J & I have started a love affair with our new Marcato Atlas 150 pasta machine. Like two eager kids we attacked pasta making with excitement; taking ‘me, me, me’! turns at cranking out long strands of pasta. Gone are the days of rolling out noodle/pasta dough with a rolling pin and then painstakingly cutting up the dough that never seemed to be thin enough, into equal sized strands (which is quite backbreaking for me). Although there’s some waiting time involved, the results are worth it! The pasta tastes so fresh, silky and has a great bite to it! I have been obsessing about sugo all’Amatriciana this entire week so that’s my sauce of choice to accompany our fresh pasta. Traditionally, sugo all’Amatriciana is made up of “guanciale (dried pork cheek), pecorino cheese and tomato” but I’ve tasted a version many years ago which incorporated black olives and chilli flakes tossed through rigatoni pasta hence I’m partial to these additional ingredients; gotta jazz it up a little! I’ve used bacon here because I love that smoky flavour. It’s still a simple sauce but the flavours are beautiful especially with a splash of robust, grassy extra virgin olive oil and a generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese. Perfect for a weekend lunch!
I’m already concocting plans for our new toy; having thoughts about osso bucco ravioli, sweet potato pappardelle, Aunty Jane’s lasagne and even fresh filo pastry for baklava and börek. Bring it on - yeeeeehaaaaa!
Everday Quick Pasta Recipe
(adapted from Jamie Oliver: The Naked Chef)
500 g strong pasta flour (Tipo ’00′) (’00′ flour is superior for fresh egg pastas but you may substitute with plain flour if ’00′ is unavailable)
5 fresh, large free-range eggs ( I used 60 g eggs at room-temperature)
semolina flour for dusting ( I just used the same flour for dusting)
Making the dough (use any of the 3 following methods)
Stage 1- By hand
Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork, break up the eggs slightly as you bring in the flour from the sides. As it begins to form a semi-soft dough, start using your hands. Work the dough hard for about 3 minutes or until smooth, silky and elastic. Wrap it in clingfilm and allow it to rest in the fridge for 60 minutes.
Stage 1 – In a mixer
Use a dough hook on the mixer. Add the flour to the eggs/yolks and mix at a medium speed for about 3 minutes or until it forms a tight dough. Take it out of the mixer and finish kneading by hand for about a minute or until smooth, silky and elastic. Wrap in clingfilm and allow to rest in the fridge for 60 minutes.
Stage 1 – In a food processor
Plonk it all in and turn it on. Within 30 seconds, it should look like chewy-looking breadcrumbs. Leave it just a little longer to allow it to start working the gluten. It should now start to come together into larger balls of dough. Take it all out ( the bowl should be clean) and work by hand for 2 minutes or until smooth, silky and elastic. Wrap in clingfilm and allow it to rest in the fridge for 60 minutes.
The general rule of thumb for a basic pasta recipe is 1 egg per 100 g flour.
If the mixture is too dry, you may add some water. Likewise, if it’s too soft, add some flour. A good mixture should never stick to your fingers.
Rolling the pasta into sheets
I followed the instructions that came with our Marcato Atlas 150 pasta machine:
Cut the rested dough into 4 portions and roll out the dough one piece at a time; keeping the remaining dough covered at all times (Oops! I forgot to cover mind, so the last piece dried out a little)
Set the machine regulator (knob) to position 1 (this is the thickest setting) so that the two smooth rollers are completely open.
Pass a piece of pasta dough through the machine, turning the handle; repeat this operation 5-6 times, folding the dough over and adding some flour to the middle if necessary.
When the dough has taken a regular shape, pass it through the rollers once only with the regulators set on number 2, then once again on number 3 continuing until you obtain the desired thickness (I stopped at number 5 which gave me a pasta thickness of approximately 2mm. Number 9 is the finest setting at approximately 0.2mm)
With a knife, cut the dough crossways in pieces approximately 25 cm long.
Insert the handle in the hole for the tagliatelle/fettucine cutting rollers, turn it slowly and pass the dough through. (You might need a second person to help catch the cut pasta strands at the other end)
Place the pasta on a table-cloth and leave it to dry for at least an hour. (I hung mine on a pasta drying hanger)
rolled pasta sheet ready to be cut into Tagliatelle strands
Tagliatelle hanging on a pasta drying rack
Foodsze’s Tagliatelle with Sugo all’Amatriciana
200 g streaky bacon rashes (or pancetta), roughly chopped
2 large brown onions OR 3 small onions, sliced
170 g tomato paste
3 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons or 70 g pitted kalamata olives, halved
handful of Italian, flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light olive oil
380 ml water
2 teaspoons sugar (or to taste)
salt, to taste
1/2 – 1 teaspoons chilli flakes (or to your liking)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, to dress the pasta (a full bodied, grassy & fruity oil goes well with this)
Pecorino cheese, grated to serve
fresh tagliatelle ( or you can substitute with dry pasta if you wish but follow the cooking instructions listed on the back of the packet)
- Bring a large pot of salted boiling water to the boil ( I roughly dump in 1 - 2 tablespoons of rock salt into 6 litres boiling water)
- Whilst waiting for the water to boil, heat up the light olive oil in a separate pan; add the chopped bacon (or pancetta) and fry for about 1 1/2 minutes to render the fat or until fragrant; add in the sliced onions, reduce to medium heat and sweat them until softened (about 5 minutes); stir in the tomato paste and cook for a minute; add in the chopped tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes; gradually stir in the water, then the olives; put a lid on and simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Season with sugar, salt and chilli flakes to taste; turn off heat and stir through the finely chopped parsley.
- Add the tagliatelle to the boiling salted water and cook until al dente (to the bite). (I cooked my 2mm thick tagliatelle for about 2 minutes in two batches)
- Strain the pasta and toss through the sugo all’Amatriciana.
- Serve warm with a splash of robust extra virgin olive oil and a generous dose of grated pecorino (the cheese makes all the difference so don’t skimp on this )
I used all the fresh pasta from the above recipe but if you prefer a saucier pasta, you can hold back a small portion of the uncooked tagliatelle, dust this with a bit of flour and keep this in an air-tight container or bag stored in the fridge. Use within 4 days.
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These days, I am extremely fickle when it comes to meal ideas. With massive cravings and nightly food-related dreams (I kid you not), I just could not decide on what to cook but in most cases, convenience and ingredients on hand dictate what I eventually end up cooking. So yesterday I thawed some frozen lamb and considered making an African dish I cooked a few years ago called Liboké de Viande (Meat in Banana-Leaf) but I ran out of peanuts and didn’t feel like having any rice to accompany the flavoursome dish . With fresh rosemary, carrots and onions on hand, I settled for classic lamb and rosemary pies; recipe sourced from Taste.com.au. As I did not have 600 grams of diced lamb, I substituted the variance with diced potatoes. I think there were some errors on the recipe with the quantity of puff pastry sheets required but as with most home-cooking, nothing’s set in stone so you adjust accordingly; in this case, I used 3 instead of 2 pastry sheets and there was a lot of pastry patchwork involved! This rough-and-tumble approach to the pastry produced a rustic looking pie. They were delicious with a simple salad on the side dressed in nothing but balsamic vinegar and very good extra virgin olive oil.
Lamb & Rosemary Pies
(adapted from recipe on Taste.com.au. Items in italics are additional notes)
serves 4 ( I made 5 pies)
3 sprigs rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
600g diced lamb leg, cut into 2cm pieces (or 400 g diced lamb + 200 g desiree potatoes, diced into 2 cm pieces)
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 carrot, peeled, diced
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
1 1/2 cups beef stock
cracked black pepper, to taste (not too much so it doesn’t overpower the lamb and rosemary flavours)
olive oil cooking spray
2 sheets frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, partially thawed
1 egg, lightly beaten
optional – nigella seeds to decorate
- Remove leaves from 2 rosemary sprigs. Cut remaining sprig into 4. Set aside. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add lamb. Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until browned. Remove to a plate.
- Add onion, garlic, carrot and rosemary leaves to pan. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until tender. Add flour. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Combine tomato paste, wine and stock in a jug. Add to pan. Cook, stirring, until sauce
comes to the boil. Return lamb (and add diced potatoes if using) to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes or until lamb is tender. (if mixture looks too thick, you can thin it down with a little more beef stock; taste and adjust seasoning and cracked black pepper accordingly). Set aside to cool. (Do not fill pastry cases with hot filling as the pastry will become soggy)
- Preheat oven to 200°C. Spray four 3/4-cup capacity Texas muffin holes with oil. Cut two 15cm rounds and two 9cm rounds from each pastry sheet. Use large rounds to line muffin holes. Fill with lamb mixture. Brush edges with water. Top with remaining pastry rounds. Press edges to seal. Brush tops with egg. Press in rosemary sprigs (and a sprinkling of nigella seeds if using). (you will need at least 3 puff pastry sheets; to prevent wastage, you can use the pastry offcuts to line the remaining 2-3 muffin holes; patch any holes or gaps to prevent the filling from leaking)
- Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around pie edges to loosen. Remove from pan. Serve.
- To freeze: Allow to cool for 30 minutes. Place, in a single layer, in an airtight container. Freeze for up to 6 weeks.
- To reheat: Thaw in the fridge for 12 hours. Place pies on a baking tray and heat in a 180°C oven for 15 minutes.
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