Category Archives: Blog

Giant Tiger Prawns with Peri Peri

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When I think of the perfect summer holiday I always think of the trip I did to Mozambique in 2002 and the wonderful culinary simplicity of the daily dose of peri peri ANYTHING…usually steak or prawns.

We stayed on the beach in reed huts with only the most basic of services, in a remarkably beautiful spot, and what an amazing time we had.  We would hire a boat and driver for the day and go out to the most remote spots and discover turtles, coves and just the most unspoilt beaches and just ridiculously turquoise waters.

Every morning, usually at about 7,  the heat would make sure we were up and about. There would be two to three eager fisherman waiting for us to sell us the freshest, most delicious ocean fare. Prawns by the dozen and so very cheap we would just buy all they had just to see their big wonderful happy smiles assuring us they would have more for us in the morning!  We only had an open drum wood fire to cook over, and would sit under the stars listening to the local reggae, drinking local beer, and wondering how life could really get any better than that.

To make peri peri sauce is very simple.  There are many variations and of course you will find your own peri peri mojo, but for starters here’s my recipe and you can be assured it will be everything you were hoping for.

Of course the secret is the chilli, the peri peri chilli is the birds eye chilli, small, flavoursome and fierce! I make this one sauce, some of it is used to marinade the prawns and the rest I place in a saucepan with a tin of tomatoes and cook it down into a lovely thick sauce.

Peri Peri Sauce

2 onions finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

10 birds eye chillies

1 cup lemon juice

zest of one lemon

1 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons hot or sweet paprika

Method:

You can either pop all of this into a food processor and whizz until it forms a thick fragrant paste, or you can chop it the good old fashioned way.

Clean and devein the prawns by cutting down the back of the prawn with a good pair of kitchen scissors and removing the vein.  You can cut almost right through the prawn to butterfly them OR just leave them whole. Now use about a quarter of this sauce to marinade about 2kg prawns. Place the rest in a saucepan with two tins of chopped tomatoes and cook for about 25 minutes on high, stirring occasionally.

Season to taste with more salt and sugar if you feel it needs some and then serve as a sauce over the prawns once they come off the coals!

To cook the prawns.  Simply heat your BBQ or coal fire to a good but medium heat and then place the prawns, flesh side down, and get them nicely browned and sealed off before turning over and browning the shell. They don’t take long so please don’t overcook!

 

Enjoy!

Chef Mel

The Vanilla Zulu

 

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Beautiful sun-tanned beer-braised pork belly with caramelised apples

Pork belly

 

Beautiful sun-tanned beer-braised pork belly with caramelised apples and onions…

Pork Belly is one of my favourite things in the whole wide world.

I think over the years it’s become my speciality and I really love this recipe so had to share it with you.  I just couldn’t be the only one having fun in the kitchen!

There are many myths and long-winded procedures to try and get that perfect crackling but rest assured it’s easier than you think!

I must be one of the laziest chef’s in the world.  If i can put something in the oven and then leave it there for an hour and a bit and get a round of applause or a wow it comes out, then I’ll do it!  And that’s exactly how this belly is prepared.  It basically takes all the hard work out of being amazing in the kitchen and you will be able to smile and feel free again!

Yes, it’s decadent.  No, you shouldn’t wear your skinny jeans the next day.

But life is short and decadent food, in moderation, with a balanced diet the rest of the time is okay.  I call this one my 80/20 cheat treat and look here I’ve served it with beautiful greens and a healthy pea puree so it’s practically a balanced meal!

Also, belly is economical and you can cater for heaps of people without any stress.  Allow 250g of belly per person!

Here are my secrets to the perfect crackling EVERY time:

WARNING: Every belly you take home(lol) is going to behave differently.  Different fat contents in the belly (lean or fatty), different levels of dryness/moisture in the skin (cryovac sealed or dried overnight skin), your oven/equipment and of course your cooking method all have a part to play but DON’T PANIC I’m about to reveal ALL!

  1. Braising is the best cooking method for pork belly with perfect crackling – the meat is submerged in a tasty cooking liquid and the skin/rind is high and dry and exposed to extreme heat. The flavour AND colour of the cooking liquid will infuse into the meat and keep it perfectly tender and safe from drying out.
  2. Scoring the skin gives it more surface area so more heat can pop out the crackling – get your butcher to score the skin/rind to help that heat get right in there and help pop out that crackling.  Most supermarket bellies are already scored.  Of course you can do it yourself but don’t bother if your knife is blunt you WILL end up in tears! 
  3. Cook the belly in a ‘swear-word’ hot oven – yes, swear word hot so that you know how hot i want this oven. It’s the ONLY way.  You are not going to get a speeding fine if you go over 180c which is the safe zone!  Crank the oven up to it’s maximum temperature of 220/250c!
  4. Minimum cook time of 1h15min – Pork belly with crackling is not a midweek meal that you decide to cook when you’ve been stuck in traffic for an hour, the kids are screaming with hunger, and food needs to be on the table in 10 minutes flat.  I have recipes for that night but this is not it!  Belly needs some alone time in the oven for at least an hour and 15 minutes.  This is fabulous if you are having a dinner party which means you can clean the kitchen, set the table, get yourself all cleaned up and glamorous while the OVEN DOES THE WORK! You might need to top up the cooking liquid once or twice but that’s about it.
  5. Give that belly a suntan under the grill-in most cases, after an hour in the oven the belly might not have popped it’s crackling.  Do not start crying, drinking excessively or panicking there are ways and means to get your way!  Place the belly on the bottom shelf.  Put the grill on.  Stay close. Close the door.  The extreme heat or ‘suntan’ from the direct heat of the grill will blast that fat out and give you the perfect crackling but BEWARE…if you get distracted or if something happens on Facebook and you forget about the belly it will burn!  Stay close and monitor the crackling, you will be surprised what that long-distance relationship with the grill can do to your belly! Once it’s all popped out remove from the oven and get ready to get that round of applause!

And now the recipe!

Beautiful sun-tanned beer-braised pork belly with caramelised apples and onions…

INGREDIENTS:
  • 180g Pork belly per person
  • 2-4 cups weak chicken or vegetable stock (amount required depends on the size of your roasting dish)
  • 1 can beer or cider
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric (this is the secret to the belly sun tan!)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin/curry/ras el hanout powder
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 onions, thickly sliced
  • 2 pears or apples, thickly sliced
  • Salt to sprinkle the rind
METHOD:

To prepare the belly, first ensure that you have dried the skin as much as possible using paper towel or a tea towel. Score the skin of the belly and cut the belly into serving sized portions.

Place pear and onion in a roasting dish and put the pork on top – the intention is to make sure that the pork skin will stay dry while it is being cooked. Essentially we are using the onions and the apples/pears as CULINARY HIGH HEELS!

Mix the stock and spices together in a jug and CAREFULLY pour into the roasting dish – making sure not to wet the skin of the pork. You want the liquid to come about halfway up the side of the pork.

Pat the pork skin dry again and then dust liberally with salt and immediately place into a swear word hot oven (220 – 250°C).

Cook for at least 1 ¼ hrs, checking regularly to make sure the liquid doesn’t dry out. If the skin is not crackling, turn the grill on for 5 minutes at a time, place the belly on the bottom shelf, and then put it back to oven, watching closely until that lovely skin pops out into perfect crackling…heaven!

TO SERVE:

Turn the pork upside down to carve if needed – this makes cutting the crackling easier.

Serve the cooking liquid, pears and onions as part of the dish. Make sure you taste it first and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  If the liquid has cooked down too much simple add more water and heat through.  No need to thicken you can serve this as a broth or you can thicken to make a gravy, just take some of the fat off first!  Paper towel on the surface is the easiest!

Enjoy

I’m wild about cooking!

Chef Mel

The Vanilla Zulu

How to create a fuss-free Culinary Bling Christmas Feast!

How to create a fuss-free Culinary Bling Christmas Feast!

Part 1

Do you want to get a round of applause this Christmas for your amazing culinary prowess?

Do you want your guests to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ at your amazing creations?

150827_012Do you want to remain stress-free, relaxed and happy while whipping up a  feast that will not only be photographed by the family, but will have everyone asking you for recipes and marvelling at how you achieved all of this?  AND you are looking glamorous and your kitchen is all clean and mess free?

It is possible!

I’ve been working on some amazing Christmassy Culinary Bling and have your whole Christmas Feast planned and worked out for you, it’s going to be a breeze!

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First thing we need to do though is relax and plan.  They say if you have 8 hours to cut down a tree we must spend 6 hours sharpening our axe…

Well that sounds really boring and dreary but they have a point.  What I mean is please don’t leave everything for the last minute.  Most of these recipes here can be prepped a few weeks or days or hours in advance leaving you with more time to enjoy the festivities.

150827_023We also need to make sure you have your shopping list ready!  Going in for the Christmas shop is a lot cheaper if you have it planned.

Often we ask family members to bring a dish or two along, or you might be a guest this Christmas, either way I have you covered.  So if you’re doing it all or just taking a few dishes along remember this…Christmas Cooking Can Be Fun!

150827_027I’ll be breaking this blog into bits so it’s easy to digest, I thought we should start with some festive nibbles and how to get a round of applause early on in the festivities!

A cheese board, antipasto platter or ‘nibbles’ platter can be a showstopper.  Here are my home-made UBER cheap but very sexy, sophisticated and foodie water biscuits AKA Culinary BARK.  You will pay a fortune for these at the deli’s and supermarkets but don’t be deceived…EASY EASY EASY to make.

150827_003 - CopyI make these all the time for cheeseboards, dip platter and antipasto platters during the year so the only thing I do differently is cut them into tree or star shapes.

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Christmas Star Water biscuits with black salt and rose petals

 

1 cup plain flour

100ml or just a little more water to bind (as per demo)

1 tablespoon seasoning to match your cheese/dip or just omit and have them plain (nigella seeds, pink pepper, black salt, lavender, rose petals, rosemary)

 

Method

To prevent the dough from being annoying and sticking to your hands and surface with flour before handling the dough. Knead for about 3 minutes until the dough is nice and soft and pliable.

 

Take a teaspoonful of dough and roll out into long thin biscuits OR roll ALL the dough out until really thin and then cut out with the star or tree cutter, making sure you use lots of flour underneath to make sure they don’t stick to the counter.

 

Bake hot and fast on an ungreased baking tray for about 3-8 minutes at 200°C. They should be brittle and not too brown! Store in an airtight container until you want to use them.

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Mysterious and sexy Moroccan Mince

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How many times a week do you cook mince for the family?  In my house it’s about twice a week because the kids just adore it and well, it’s economical, so who am I to argue!

Last night I had a fabulous group on my famous Eat Yourself Sexy cooking class and we did a little session about how to cook mince properly!  I do this ‘mince tuition’ for a few reasons but mostly because I have seen some epic mince disasters in my time!

Guys, mince that is grey, watery and limp is not deemed as a culinary success!  Also, let’s put to bed that urban legend that evil butchers are spending precious hours pumping water into mince to cheat you out of your hard-earned cash.  Alas, they are NOT! If you are getting grey liquid pouring out of your mince you are to blame.  This might sound like tough love but I am here for you and simply want you to live happily ever after and join us on the sexy mince side!

If you mince is throwing grey liquid off there are usually three culprits:

  1. Your pan was cold when added the mince
  2. You are stirring too much
  3. You have overcrowded the pan

This is the best way to do it!

Most recipes call for you to add the onions and some oil to the pan and then cook the onions first.  Pointless!  Unless you want your onions caramelized and the hero of the dish then they don’t need to go in first.  If they are chopped nice and small and fine they can be added after the mince is brown and sexy and delicious you have my permission.  So here’s how it’s done…

  1. Get the pan ‘swear-word’ hot.  Only use a vegetable or rice bran oil in the pan OLIVE OIL DOES NOT HAVE A HIGH HEAT THRESHOLD so be careful if you are using it burns faster than most.
  2. Once the pan is greased and ‘swear-word’ hot then add the mince (it can be straight out the fridge).  DO NOT STIR!!
  3. Allow the first side of the mince you put into your pan brown off first before you stir and NO YOU WON”T GET LUMPS!
  4. Once the first side has a lovely suntan and the pan is still sizzling hot you can start to break apart the mince using two forks (I use my larger salad  server forks…they are the perfect mince flutters!)
  5. Always keep some of the pan naked so that if there is any liquid it can cook away, it’s always good to keep that heat really on high in the pan until the meat is browned and sealed. Keep working the mince and the heat until it is all browned and cooked.
  6. When the mince is browned and fluffed you can now add your onions and seasoning and cooking liquid or tomato passata and live happily ever after!

So now that we have done our MINCE TRAINING let me give you that recipe!  I’m going to repeat some of the mince notes in the method…some will say I’m nagging I maintain I’m just making sure you don’t get grey mince ever again!

Mysterious and sexy Moroccan Mince

(I make a 1kg batch so there is enough for another meal later in the week!)

20-30ml oil to grease the pan

1 kg chicken or beef mince

2 onions finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 small level tablespoon turmeric

1 teaspoon Ras El Hanout (OR use half a teaspoon cumin powder and half a teaspoon cardamom and a pinch of nutmeg)

1 tablespoon beef or chicken stock powder

400-500ml tomato passata or paste

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tin chick peas, optional

Method:

  1. Get the pan ‘swear-word’ hot.  Only use a vegetable or rice bran oil in the pan OLIVE OIL DOES NOT HAVE A HIGH HEAT THRESHOLD so be careful if you are using it burns faster than most.
  2. Once the pan is greased and ‘swear-word’ hot then add the mince (it can be straight out the fridge).  DO NOT STIR!!
  3. Allow the first side of the mince you put into your pan brown off first before you stir and NO YOU WON”T GET LUMPS!
  4. Once the first side has a lovely suntan and the pan is still sizzling hot you can start to break apart the mince using two forks (I use my larger salad  server forks…they are the perfect mince flutters!)
  5. Always keep some of the pan naked so that if there is any liquid it can cook away, it’s always good to keep that heat really on high in the pan until the meat is browned and sealed. Keep working the mince and the heat until it is all browned and cooked.
  6. When the mince is browned and fluffed you can now add your onions and turmeric and spices, tomato passata, chopped tomatoes and stock/seasoning and stir through (and live happily ever after!) Reduce the heat and add the chick peas and allow to cook through over a low heat for about ten more minutes to allow the flavours to develop and then serve!
  7. You can serve this on cous cous, rice, with kale-slaw, on a bed of roasted veggies, or like i did on a roast vegetable stack with some lovely tomato and capsicum puree!

Who wants the recipe for the tomato and capsicum puree?

Enjoy!

I’m WILD about cooking…

Mel, The Vanilla Zulu

Famous Roasted Red Capsicum Puree

As requested by so many!  The most fabulous sauce EVER!

I used this with the Moroccan Mince recipe but you can use it with pasta, chicken, steak or as a gravy replacement!  Add a little sugar if you need to!

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Roasted Red Capsicum Purèe

Olive oil to fry

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 cup roasted red capsicums (cut in half, place under grill until skin goes black, cool and then remove skin)

500ml tomato passata

Salt and pepper to season

Half a teaspoon turmeric freshly grated or use powder

1 pinch cumin or Ras el Hanout OR Chilli

Method

Fry the onions and the garlic in the oil until just soft. Now add the cooked capsicum and the tomato passata/puree and the seasoning and cook through. Simply place these gorgeous ingredients in a food processor or use a stick blender and blend until smooth. A fantastic accompaniment to a wide variety of dishes and salads, and heaps of fun to garnish with!

5 Reasons you hate cooking…

I hear it so often.  ‘I hate cooking’…

And i really just don’t understand!  To me cooking is a therapy, a tonic, my passion. I really do enjoy cooking, I think it feeds my soul and I can definitely enhance my mood by cooking something fabulous and then gobble it all up! Perhaps it’s because I know ALL of the shortcuts?

I always say in my classes if you hate cooking i can absolutely tell you why.

  1. Your knives are blunt

If your knives are blunt you will not enjoy cooking. It is literally impossible.  It is pointless having a uber sexy and expensive knife if the poor thing is so blunt you can barely get it through an Iceberg lettuce:)  Get them sharpened.  Get a professional edge back on that knife by either chatting up your local butcher or getting your knives to a professional sharpener.  It really isn’t expensive and is well worth it.  Then you can use your kitchen steel to keep it sharp as you go.

Once your knife is sharp you will live happily ever after in the kitchen. You will dazzle and amaze even yourself with your new culinary prowess…it will practically feel like you have been on a magnificent holiday you will feel so refreshed!

Don’t believe me?  You know i’m right!

I have a professional knife sharpening service visit the cooking school as necessary, if you’re in Brisbane I would highly recommend Troy at Wicked Edge.

2. Your shopping list is holding you back

If you buy the same dreary ingredients week in and week out OF COURSE you will lose your mojo in the kitchen!  I usually have a list for the household basics but shop for FRESH produce.  And I’m always on the lookout for something I haven’t ever  tried before. I buy with my eyes and it all depends on what LOOKS fresh and delicious and what is on sale!  I would much rather buy seasonal fresh produce than something that is old, overpriced and on my list.

So buy with your eyes.  See what’s on special. Try something new!  If you have never tried fennel or beef cheeks or fresh turmeric BUY IT and TRY IT.  There will be heaps of recipes for anything you may find so be adventurous.

The minute you add a new ingredient to a dish it becomes a new dish so remember that.  You don’t have to learn a repertoire of new recipes, you can simply start adding a bit of bling to your old ones!

Add finely shaved fennel to your next coleslaw…BANG!  Amazing!

Add veal or pork mince instead of beef to any of your old favourites…BANG! Amazing!

Add my favourite spice Ras el Hanout to your next leg of lamb, roast chicken, mince or even vegetables…BANG! Amazing!

The minute you try a new combination of the same recipe it’s a new recipe!  I do it all the time!

3. Your chopping board moves around when you chop

You have no idea how much this upsets me!  I’ve watched many battle it out on a chopping board with the silly thing moving and flapping about OF COURSE you’re going to hate chopping.  TAKE CONTROL! Put a wet cloth or a plastic mat under the board and your will be in chopping heaven.  It’s also MUCH safer so please try this and you’ll be surprised how such a simple idea can transform your chopping woes.

4. You don’t know the basics

Now this is quite a wide and loose statement.  What I mean is if you don’t know the basics of cooking you are not going to have the confidence to try anything new.

Use the right knife for the job,  you can’t use a paring knife to finely chop a bunch of parsley you will need to use a chefs knife or a vegetable cleaver so don’t battle it out with the wrong equipment.

If your mince or your bacon is leaking grey liquid all over the pan when you’re cooking, or if your stir fries are limp and watery and grey then you need to adjust your cooking method.  Generally if meat is added to a cold pan and then stirred it will stew, seep and cook grey every single time.  The more you stir the more it will stew!  You know I’m right!  Get the pan nice and hot.  Do not use extra virgin olive oil for high temperature frying, it just can’t handle the heat and will smoke and burn before the pan is even hot.  Use a rice bran, coconut and vegetable oil, these cheap and cheerful oils can handle the heat in the kitchen.  Extra virgin olive oil is like a princess: it doesn’t like to get hot or sweaty or do any work but it’s really glamorous and is the perfect candidate to bling up and adorn a salad, or be drizzled over cooked meat or vegetables…but it’s useless at frying at high tempreatures!

Remember to manage the heat in your pan. If you add 650g cold meat drenched in a liquid marinade and then add it to a small cold pan and then stir you ARE DEFINITELY going to get a stew and not a stir fry!  Here’s the solution, I don’t mind saying it again:

  • Get the pan swear-word hot
  • Add a little cheap and cheerful oil (rice bran, canola etc!)
  • Only add the meat to the pan if it SIZZLES!
  • Don’t stir until the first layer that has hit the pan is browned and sealed, if you are cooking mince you can attack the lumps with two forks or a whisk. I always add my onion second, that way I don’t have to add extra oil to cook the onions. Makes sense doesn’t it!
  • Only stir when the pan has regained it’s heat, you can lower the temperature in the pan once you are happy it’s all sealed and now just needs to cook through.
  • You will seriously live happily ever after once you know these tricks!

5. You don’t feel appreciated

If you’ve spent an hour or two or more in the kitchen and you don’t get a round of applause of course you will feel hard done by!  I always make sure I bling up my meal so when they finally see it, it looks so amazing that they at least murmur wow or oooh or similar!  It’s amazing what a new dish will do for your reputation!  Learn some quick and easy presentation skills and styles and you can literally make mac cheese the star of the show!  See my blog and book The Little Black Book of Culinary Bling for more inspiration!

Happy Cooking

Mel

The Vanilla Zulu

Porcini and basil Arancini with Verjuice mayo

We had so much fun with this dish in my class last night, and so many requests for the recipe that I just had to share the marvels of mayo with you. And of course the recipe for the Arancini Balls!

I think most cooks shy away from mayo as it’s perceived to be uber cheffy and very difficult to make but it’s not!  There are a few rules that need to be obeyed and if it does curdle, well then I’m just going to tell you how to save it right now so no one has to stress anymore!

Also, we can make so many fabulous flavours by adjusting a few ingredients, you’ll be able to make a matching mayonaisse for just about anything!

Here is the basic recipe and then I’ll give you some ideas to bling it up and make it really fabulous.  Please make sure you use ROOM TEMPERATURE eggs!  Can be done by hand, but can be done with a stick blender or food processor in just one minute!

Arancini Balls with Verjuice Mayo

Verjuice Mayo

(Makes just over 350ml)

1 egg at room temperature

3ml salt

15ml Dijon, Australian or grainy mustard

Pinch white pepper

20ml lemon, lime juice, white balsamic condiment or white wine vinegar

15 ml verjuice

Method:

Blend these together first until nice and smooth, you can do this by hand, or use a stick blender or mixer to help. Once smooth start adding 300ml oil in a thin stream until the mixture starts to thicken, continue to pour until all the oil has been incorporated!

NOTE: If you curdle the mix (it will look very thin and oily) , simply make a new egg with the entire list of ingredients and method above but instead of more oil add the curdled mixture into the NEW egg mixture. It usually only curdles if you add the oil far too quickly so do it at a nice constant speed.

Porcini and Basil Arancini balls

 20 ml olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon basil finely chopped

2 cups Arborio rice

750ml weak chicken or vegetable stock (you may need more)

80ml white wine

80g Parmesan or Pecorino grated

2 tablespoons porcini OR any mushroom of your choice

2 eggs and about 1 cup breadcrumbs to bind

bocconcini cut into smaller pieces to hide in the centre of the balls

adjust seasoning

About 1 cup crumbs to coat and fry

 

Method

 To prepare the risotto, add the onion and some oil to the pan, and allow to cook gently until just soft.  Now add the rice stir through until the rice is coated in the oil.  Add the wine and mushrooms and then stir through until the rice has absorbed the wine and it has cooked away until dry again. Now add stock a little at a time, stirring until it absorbs the stock and is nearly dry again before adding the next lot of liquid. Cook until the rice is just firm to the bite but definitely cooked through.  You may need more liquid depending on how fast you cooked the rice and the size of your pot. Add the cheese and season to taste. Remove from heat and stir to cool down before you add eggs and crumbs. Now roll into balls making them nice and compact so they don’t fall apart, make a little hole with your finger and then bury a small nugget of the bocconcini in the ball and then mould the rice over the cheese to seal it in.  Roll the ball in crumbs and then and fry in fresh vegetable oil until golden, or brush/spray with oil and then bake for about 12-15 minutes at 200c until golden.

THESE can be made and fried up the day before an event, kept in the fridge and then just reheated in the oven nice and gently! Great if you are catering a party and don’t want to work too hard on the day!

Some more Mayo recipes for you to try!

Porcini black salt mayonnaise (Very delicious and goes well with many dishes)

(Makes just over 350ml)

1 egg at room temperature

3ml black salt or normal salt

15ml Dijon or grainy mustard

15 ml dried porcini, pre-soaked

Pinch white pepper

20ml lemon, lime juice, white balsamic condiment or white wine vinegar

Method:

Blend these together first until nice and smooth, you can do this by hand, or use a stick blender or mixer to help. Once smooth start adding 300ml oil in a thin stream until the mixture starts to thicken, continue to pour until all the oil has been incorporated!

Wasabi and lime mayonnaise (great with fish or if you need a Japanese flair)

(Makes just over 350ml)

1 egg at room temperature

3ml salt

15ml Wasabi

Pinch white pepper

20ml lime juice

Method:

Blend these together first until nice and smooth, you can do this by hand, or use a stick blender or mixer to help. Once smooth start adding 300ml oil in a thin stream until the mixture starts to thicken, continue to pour until all the oil has been incorporated!

Saffron and verjuice mayonnaise (goes well with any steak, chicken dish or lamb)

(Makes just over 350ml)

1 egg at room temperature

3ml black salt or normal salt

15ml Dijon or grainy mustard

15 ml dried porcini, pre-soaked

Pinch white pepper

20ml lemon, lime juice, white balsamic condiment or white wine vinegar

15 ml verjuice heated slightly in microwave with a pinch of saffron or turmeric until the colour seeps

Method:

Blend these together first until nice and smooth, you can do this by hand, or use a stick blender or mixer to help. Once smooth start adding 300ml oil in a thin stream until the mixture starts to thicken, continue to pour until all the oil has been incorporated!

Chilli and kaffir lime mayonnaise ( a lovely Asian flair)

(Makes just over 350ml)

1 egg at room temperature

3ml salt

15ml Dijon or grainy mustard

2-3 kaffir lime leaves finely chopped

Pinch white pepper

20ml fresh lime juice

Method:

Blend these together first until nice and smooth, you can do this by hand, or use a stick blender or mixer to help. Once smooth start adding 300ml oil in a thin stream until the mixture starts to thicken, continue to pour until all the oil has been incorporated!

There’s a ZULU on my plate!

There’s a zulu on my plate!

I always smile to myself when, despite myself, I always seem to get a bit of Africa onto my plates when presenting for the cooking school, photo shoots or demonstrations.  Don’t worry…I can keep it together when i need to!  I also sometimes sneak traditional African products into my cooking, probably to ward off my longing for friends and family left in Africa!  Thank goodness I have wonderful friends here at home in Brisbane and they don’t mind me feeding them African food whenever I can.

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Now African cooking, in particular Zulu cuisine, is very simple and in normal households would be staple maize meal, vegetables and meat (inyama). Stews and casseroles are firm favourites as they are inexpensive and can feed many mouths.  Samp and beans is another very cost effective way of filling up tummies. Pumpkins, squash (including the leaves) are favourites vegetables as is spinach AKA ‘umfino’. Every tribe will have their own name for something so it can be quite interesting hearing all the different names.  My fathers favourite meal is still Sadza (white maize meal) served with meat and gravy and non of my fancy food can change his mind! He cooks a fabulous potjiekos (stew in 3 legged pot). My mother was a very keen and fabulous cook too and I have thankfully managed to steal her wonderful melk tert (milk tart), Hertzoggies (jam and coconut tarts), buttermilk rusks, Malva pudding and vetkoek (fried bread dough stuffed with curried mince) recipes which I still use today and claim as my own!

Melktert with cinnamon and almond biscotti sail

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Recently I’ve taken to home smoking either chicken or salmon with the ever so popular Rooibos tea.  I have also been setting jellies for various mains and desserts using Rooibos tea as the base and then adjusting the flavour to match the dish I’m making, it really is so versatile.

Home smoked Salmon on a crepe!
Home smoked Salmon on a crepe!

I think African food is on the cusp of trending here in Australia.  We’ve seen Mexico, South America, Vietnam and other Asian foods hit with a vengeance but thanks to that ad on TV everyone wants to know what a bunny chow is!

If you haven’t had a bunny chow you really need to. It’s not only tasty and delicious, but it puts the fun back into food!  The ingredients are honest and simple and you can use various curries.  A Durban curry, like other regional Indian dishes, has a personality and characteristic of it’s own and is a refreshing experience if you enjoy trying something new. There are so many different types and styles of African food and I like to dabble a little in all of the African regions.

My other favourite African style would have to be Mozambican, very close to my heart after all the fabulous holidays i have spent there.

In case you didn’t know, South African is a melting pot of cultures ranging from German, Portuguese, Italian, French, Malaysian, Indian and many more so there are a lot of African adaptations creating many glorious food styles.

I’ll be posting some amazing African inspired recipes and menus over the next few weeks…let me know which ones in particular appeal to you and I’ll get cooking!

I’m wild about cooking…

Mel

The Vanilla Zulu

How to keep cool in the kitchen this summer with my summer stunners…

I have to admit that I really did enjoy winter in Brisbane this year.  Can we call that a winter?  Not sure if we even went below 15 degrees to tell you the truth!

Spring is giving way to summer and with that comes all the pleasure of the summer cues like mangos, ceiling fans, swimming pool splashes, grapes, melons, citrus and afternoon storms.

I don’t know about you but unless you have air-conditioning it’s getting really hot in the kitchen.  I’ve come up with some quick and easy recipes, and I mean quick, so that you don’t have to slave away in a hot kitchen!

I’ve also been threatening to do a BBQ and camping cook book with amazing and easy recipes that would get you a round of applause at your next beach BBQ, picnic or camping trip…who wants to nag me along so that I actually get working on it!  Isn’t Australia just beautiful to explore, with all this fantastic fresh produce it’s so easy to create show stopping meals that are simple, fast and fresh.

It’s a bit naughty to start off with a dessert but this recent photo off my Facebook got THAT much attention that I had to set the record straight on how easy this was to make.  I had EVERY single student in that class begged me for the recipe so here goes. Also, I must warn you that once you read the recipe, and in fact make this, you will realise that it’s terribly easy to make and in fact i made 6 different flavours with my kids over the last school holiday.  Flavours included salted caramel, strawberry cheesecake, loaded cookie dough, death by chocolate and lemon meringue!  Heaven!

I MUST mention that this amazing creation costs $4.80 to make and will serve at least 6-8 (that is a side plate so that you can imagine the size)

Even though this is a terribly easy recipe I got at least 5 gasps of amazement and about three ‘ooh’s’ so like I always say cheap and cheerful CAN get you a round of applause if you add some culinary bling!

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Delicious Double Vanilla Ice cream with spun sugar and petal bling..Costs $4.80

Double Vanilla Ice Cream with spun sugar and petals

(I’ll give you the recipe for the spun sugar but I’ll also do a quick youtube video on this recipe so you can see how it’s done)

600ml cream, beaten until thick

1 tin condensed milk

30ml vanilla bean paste

Method

Once the cream is beaten fold in the whisk in the condensed milk and vanilla and then place in an airtight freezer proof bucket (I used a 1 litre tub) and then freeze for about 3-4 hours until set.

I told you it was too easy…it’s all in the bling!

Spun Sugar

Half a cup of white sugar and quarter cup of hot water.  Place in a small saucepan and boil hot and fast until the sugar starts going golden.  Shake the golden colour through and stay close, waiting for a darker caramel to form.  Once the sugar smells and looks like caramel it IS READY, remove from heat and shake to cool.  Place on heat proof surface and then get two forks.  put the forks in the tacky sugar caramel and then put them together back to back so that the sugar ‘meets’. Pull apart and then touch them to each other again and then thin strands will form, harvest the strands but be careful they might still be hot, keep going until the sugar gets too hard and then you can load up with more hot tacky caramel. Continue until the sugar is no longer in the mood and then you can admire your gorgeous and very expensive looking spun sugar.  Twist to form a nest and then place on top of the ice cream!  You can do this in advance and keep the sugar nests in the freezer in a large ziplock bag!

More recipes to follow!  Would you like other flavours to try with this super easy recipe, let me know and I’ll get typing!

Enjoy!

More Father’s Day Recipe Ideas

As much as I love the hustle and the bustle of Father’s Day treats in restaurants and coffee shops it would be just as easy to spoil dad at home or with a picnic…and cheaper too! Especially if the whole family is coming along!

I won’t get to spend father’s day with my dad, and many of my friends won’t either, so we are relying on YOU to have all the fun on our behalf!

I thought you’d either wake him up on Sunday with a special breakfast or perhaps wait till lunch and celebrate then.  So here is a fabulously easy Hollandaise sauce for you ( I promise it will work if you follow the recipe!) or make my Dirty Tomahawk Steak (see yesterday’s blog) or my famous Sun-Tanned Pumpkin and Chilli Chicken (previous blog post but I’ve added it in here).

Be your father’s FAVOURITE CHILD! Recipes for Father’s Day!

Whether you’re spoiling him to breakfast in bed or a luscious lunch…I’ve got you covered!

Breakfast for Dad

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What better way to show him that you love him than with a spectacular home-cooked breakfast.  Use my amazingly easy blender hollandaise for his eggs this Father’s Day and you will really be his favourite!  It’s not only simply and easy but it’s delicious too. I don’t want you stressing over a double-boiler and curdling the eggs under pressure!

DON’T FORGET TO BLING!  Of course you must ‘bling’ up the eggs and their glorious sauce with some sexy black salt and chive bling…or just garnish with black ground pepper, chilli and edible petals and micro herbs(or freshly chopped chives and parsley will do!)

Best ever blender Hollandaise
(serves 4)
3 egg yolks at room temperature
1 tablespoon water
15ml lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
pinch cayenne pepper
100g hot (not boiling) melted butter
Method:
Place the egg yolks, water lemon juice and seasoning together in a suitable blender jug.  Blend this mixture until nice and smooth, just for a few seconds.  Add the melted butter in slowly, pouring and blending until all the butter has been combined and the sauce is thick and creamy.  Check seasoning and then serve warm!  You can keep this warm by placing the bowl over another bowl full of hot water, or this sauce is perfect served cold too!  Why not try this sauce over a sizzling and sexy steak too, you’ll get a round of applause every time!

You can add dill, tarragon, chives or curry powder for wonderful variations of this!
Garnish with lots of freshly ground black pepper, fresh herbs and edible petals.

Lunch for dad (and the family)

Father’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to stage a family get-together.  Instead of working too hard you can really get an easy round of applause with this wonderful and very manly chicken dish…my famous ‘Sun-tanned Spachie/Chicken!  If you would prefer my Black Steak with Basil and Porcini Mayo just head to my blog!

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Bling up your next roast with this fabulous ‘spray-tanned’ roast chicken!  

Roast chicken is an all time favourite.  It’s the definitive crowd pleaser and will never go out of fashion.  ‘Bling’ up your next roast with this fabulous turmeric and curry spray-tanned chicken stuffed with roasted pumpkin and chilli.

Here’s how:

1 family sized chicken, or use a few spatchocks instead

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon curry powder

50ml olive oil

5 ml flake salt to season

Chilli and Pumpkin stuffing

1 onion finely chopped

1 teaspoon finely chopped chilli

1 teaspoon finely chopped sage

1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic

2 cups roasted/cooked pumpkin (or use butternut or sweet potato)

1 cup bacon bits/speck/chorizo finely chopped

Method:

Prepare the filling by first heating and greasing a frying pan until nice and hot (as I like to say “swear word” hot) so that when you add the bacon it sizzles.  Shake the pan but do not stir too soon.  Allow the bacon to brown and then add the  garlic, onion and sage.  Reduce the heat and allow the onion to soften before adding the pumpkin mash.  Season to taste and allow to cool.

Cut the chicken down the back bone and then open up to make a chicken flattie.  Once laying flat, loosen the skin from the neck side of the bird, loosening it from the flesh all the way down the breasts and down towards the thighs and drumstick as well, creating an envelope for the stuffing.  Place spoonful’s of the filling onto the breast and then work it down over onto the drumstick.  Keep filling the ‘envelope’ up until the skin is full all the way down the the drumsticks, thigh and over the breast.  Reshape the bird.

Make a ‘bronzer’ paste with the oil, turmeric and curry powder and then brush all over the bird giving your bird some fabulous colour and personality.

Roast hot and fast in an oven of 200c for about 20-30 minutes until the juices run clear.

Serve this gorgeous super-model of a bird with a lovely fresh salad, roast vegetables or anything you like!

What do you think of this idea!  Would you like more recipes to bling up a simple roast?

Happy cooking, I hope your dad thinks you’re fabulous, and make sure you put some personality on your plate and bling up every meal!

Mel Townsend

The Vanilla Zulu