February 08, 2009

Two-tone lasagne (pics to come!)

Being Sunday, and with a little time up my sleeve, I decided to attempt my first lasagne. I hit the cookbooks and Tastespotting in search of a vegetarian lasagne that would fit the bill, but was disappointed with the samples I found. In the end, I found a great bechamel recipe in Delicious mag, and made up the rest as I went along.

The boy wasn't in the mood for a meat-free meal, so I decided that rather than doing 2 lasagnes (a bit OTT even for me) I would split the dish in half with a layer of baking paper. The bechamel (another first) smelled fantastic as it was cooking, and thankfully turned out perfect. While I prepped the rest of the veges, Neil cooked his mince. Then, from our selection of toppings, we each created our perfect lasagne.

The result was absolutely delish - especially with the sneaky glass of John Grima Cab Sav (from John's Stag Do in Nov. '06) we had on the side.


Two-tone Lasagne
1L milk
½ onion
1 clove garlic, bruised
2 sprigs fresh thyme
100g flour
100g butter
Salt & pepper to taste
½ tsp nutmeg

800g mushrooms, sliced
800g pumpkin, cut into 2cm dice
½ onion, sliced
½ red capsicum, thinly sliced
440g tin crushed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Small handful basil, chopped
Good splash of Tabasco

8-10 fresh pasta sheets
Grated cheese

1. For the béchamel, put milk, onion, garlic and thyme in a saucepan and heat until just below boiling. Remove from the heat and cool for 30 minutes.
2. Strain the milk to remove the infusion ingredients.
3. Clean the saucepan and, over low heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir for 3-4 minutes to cook out flour taste. Gradually whisk in milk. When all of the milk has been added, cook for 3-5 minutes until thick and smooth. Stir in salt, pepper and nutmeg. Cover tightly with baking paper to prevent a skin from forming and set aside.
4. Place pumpkin in a baking dish with a little olive oil and bake at 220 degrees C for 20 minutes or until soft. Sprinkle with a little nutmeg and mash.
5. Saute mushrooms with a little butter and set aside.
6. For the tomato sauce, combine the tomatoes, basil, garlic and Tabasco in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes until reduced, then set aside.
7. Saute onions and capsicum over a low heat until soft.

To assemble:
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Grease a large baking dish (25cm x 30cm) and layer with lasagne sheets. Spread over a layer of béchamel, then a thin layer of tomato sauce. Top with a layer of mushrooms/mince, then sprinkle with a thin layer of cheese.
3. Top with another layer of lasagne sheets, béchamel and tomato sauce, then spread a layer of pumpkin. Top with onion and capsicum and a thin layer of cheese.
4. Top with final layer of lasagne sheets and béchamel sauce, then sprinkle with cheese. Top with a little fresh thyme.
5. Cover with baking paper and foil, then bake for 1 hour. Remove foil and baking paper, then grill for 5-8 minutes, or until cheese is browned and bubbling.
6. Leave to ‘firm up’ for 10 minutes before cutting.

January 06, 2009

Orphan's Christmas '08

My favourite dessert was this one - made by Ivan from a recipe I found online. This was the only Christmas leftover I didn't mind eating!

Mango, Lychee & Passionfruit Salad
Serves 8

40 lychees, peeled, seeds removed (or 4 tins, drained)
4 mangoes, cheeks scored
1/4 cup mint leaves, torn

Passionfruit Syrup
125 ml passion fruit pulp (1/2 cup or 5 black passionfruit)
2 oranges, juice of, strained
1 lemon, juice of, strained
¾ cup caster sugar

For the syrup, pulse the passionfruit briefly in a food processor to loosen the seeds. If you have plastic blades us them so you don't cut the seeds.

Transfer to a pan with remaining ingredients and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until syrupy. Cool completely.

Place lychees and mango on a platter. Scatter with mint and drizzle with the passionfruit syrup. Serve immediately.

March 02, 2008

Nana's Custard XX

As I was sifting through the leaves of handwritten and cut-out magazine pieces from Nana's Recipe Drawer the other day, I spotted a familiar pattern - the blue and white bag of the bookshop she always gets her magazines from. Written on it, in Nana's scrupulously tidy handwriting (cough), was a recipe for Cudd xx... which I have translated into Custard Kisses!

The recipe was a little hard to decipher in places, but in the end I had two dozen gorgeous little golden cookies with (almost flouro) yellow custard filling.

February 07, 2008


My friend Sarah, Sarah II and I whipped up a tonne of gnocchi last night for a group dinner, and I was feeing all inspired by my first steps into pasta making. We had a tonne of sweet potato, so I took Sarah's recipe and got to work!

I enlisted Neil to help with the blanching... he was very helpful up until about halfway when he started to tire of fishing the bobbling balls out of the boiling water. Honestly... some people just aren't willing to work for their dinner!

December 26, 2007

Boxing Day with the twits

We had our orphan's Christmas lunch food marathon this year with the usual suspects this year, which left my sisters (aka The Twits) to their own devices for the day. To make up for the fact that we "Ruined their Christmas" by not spending it together, Neil and I had them round for Boxing Day lunch.

We knew straight away what we were going to serve:

  • Cherry tomato, bocconcini & pesto tartlets
  • Neil Perry's succulent chicken with tzatziki (from Good Food)
  • Spinach, walnut, goats cheese and pomegranate salad with lemon vinaigrette
  • And Lee bought around her specialty - vegetarian couscous salad.

And what's Christmas (or Boxing Day) without a decadent sweet treat like Blueberry cheesecake!

Post-dinner (and once the food had settled a bit) we headed down to Double Bay for a kick around with Neil's new football. It was a great day!

December 01, 2007

Gingerbread: Take 2

I'm stubborn when it comes to cooking and wasn't about to be beaten by something as simple as gingerbread... so the first thing I did when I woke up this morning was to make the liquid base. Then during our weekly trek to the supermarket a few hours later I picked up a lamington tin... this was a round I was going to win!

Since gingerbread batter is so thick, I made sure that this time when I tested the cake for doneness I put the skewer in horizontally through a crack in the top. I found that even with the shallower pan, it still had a bit more to go, and I ended up adding 15 minutes to the cooking time.

Round 1 result vs Round 2 result

The cake was lighter than expected and the cinnamon sprinkled on top (which I was going to leave out) was 'the icing on' the icing on the cake. I don't think this is going to last long in the tin...

November 25, 2007

I really am my grandmother's grand-daughter

For my 21st birthday, Nana as always, took charge of baking the cake. The request was for 'the usual' - chocolate - which Nana could churn out whilst sleepwalking with both hands tied. I arrived home from Auckland (where I was studying) and a few nights later we had a big dinner at Mum's. The end of the meal came and out came the cake - two layers of Nana's signature chocolate cake sandwiched with mock cream and topped with a thick layer of chocolate icing and coconut. It was perfect as always... but Nana was first to point out it 'wasn't the cake she had been planning'. You see, Nana had tried not one, but FOUR different recipes to make the perfect birthday cake and each attempt had ended up in the bin. It was too dry, or didn't rise high enough, or an ingredient was omitted... Mum was shocked to hear she had thrown away completely edible cakes because they weren't up to Nana's very high cake standards and we all had a good laugh at Nana's kitchen perfectionism.

Well, after last week's icing disaster (which was very close to being a 'bin' moment), I've just returned from throwing away an attempt at Gingerbread with Lemon Glace Icing from the August 1986 issue of The Australian Women's Weekly.

My first mistake was to substitute the required pan size. The recipe called for a lamington pan, which I didn't have, so I just lined a round tin. My second (and most fatal) mistake was not adjusting the cooking time to suit a deeper baking tin. As with all gingerbread batters, this one was quite 'dry' so when I tested the cake, the skewer came out nice and dry and I pulled it out to cool. It took almost an hour for it to sink, but I blamed it on a careless transfer to the wire rack. I went ahead and iced the cake thinking all would be okay... but instead of cutting out a photo-worthy piece, I ended up with a 'cooked on the outside raw on the inside' slice worthy of nothing more than the wheelie bin downstairs.

So I took my lead from the original kitchen perfectionist and bundled the whole lot into a plastic bag and into the bin. if there was any doubt I was cut from Nana's apron cloth it's gone now. I just hope my next attempt(s) don't end up in the wheelie bin as well!