Archive for February, 2010

Posted on 24th February 2010

Cook | Basil

By MANDY SINCLAIR

basil paste with blue eye cod

Blue eye with basil paste

1 cup basil leaves
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ tsp salt
2 small red chillies, finely chopped
grated rind of 1 lime
2 tbsp baby capers, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
4 x 150g pieces blue eye
oven cooked chips, to serve (see tip)
lemon wedges, to serve
1. Tear basil leaves and place in a mortar with garlic and salt. Pound using a pestle until a paste forms. Add chilli, rind and capers and mix to combine.
2. Heat oil in a large frying pan on medium. Cook fish for 2 minutes each side, until golden.
3. Spoon basil paste over fish and serve with chips and lemon wedges.

Serves 4


tip …..
To make delicious oven baked chips, peel and cut 6 large desiree potatoes into thick chips. Place in a microwave-proof bag and microwave on high for 4 mins. Spread in a single layer onto a paper lined baking tray. Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle over sea salt flakes. Bake at 180C or 160C fan for 30-40 mins, until crisp and golden.


try this …..
Finely chop ½ cup of basil leaves and stir through some softened butter. Butterfly 1kg green prawns and spread basil butter over each one. Grill or barbecue, brushing with more basil butter, for 2-3 mins, until opaque.


Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under cook
Posted on 24th February 2010

Grow | Basil

By MEREDITH KIRTON

pinching out basil seedlings

The fragrance of basil has made it incredibly popular for many cuisines and sacrosanct in some cultures; Italians can hardly imagine a tomato without a leaf of sweet basil and Thai curries wouldn’t have the same freshness without a garnish of Thai basil. There are many different varieties such as lemon, purple, Holy or Sacred Basil, Aniseed Basil and bush basil, each with a unique aroma, but still the most popular is sweet basil, which has a lovely fresh green colour and is the ingredient used in pesto.

Basil is an annual herb, which means it needs to be replanted each year in springtime again.  It is cold sensitive, and will blacken if the temperature drops too low. Best planted out in late September into well dug over, organic matter enriched soil with good drainiage.  The seedlings will need protection from snails and slugs which also think this herb is delicious!  Try using a shallow saucer of beer to attract (and kill) them.

Keep trimming off the flowers as they form, which will encourage bushiness and more foliage.  Once they have reached maturity, your bush should be about 60cm tall.  You can let it flower and seed at the end of April, as many baby basils will germinate themselves in your patch the following year.

If you love basil so much that you want to have it all year, there is an answer to your prayers.  Perennial basil will over winter well, and although more pungent in flavour, it is still edible.  The other alternative plant is actually in the mint family, but smells a bit like basil.  Known as Basil Mint, it will grow in any moist spot easily, but can romp and take over a patch.  If you’re worried about a basil mint invasion, grow it in pots.

This February has been very hot and humid in Sydney, so proper storage of seeds is especially important. Seeds need to be kept cool and dry. Before I realised how important this was, my germination rate was very low. Once I planted sugarsnap peas three times in one year, and only managed to grow a few small plants. After that lesson, I now keep my seeds in the fridge, in a Tupperware container. One useful addition to the container is a small envelope of desiccant, such as dried milk, which helps the seeds keep dry. I make my own seed packets out of paper and glue, and on them I write the name of the plant, date of collection and the place that they were collected from. Taking these simple steps keeps my seeds happy and healthy, so the effort involved feels worthwhile.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under grow
Posted on 4th February 2010

Cook | Eggplant

By MANDY SINCLAIR

eggplant salad

Warm eggplant salad

1 ruby grapefruit, peeled
1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
½ small red onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp black olives, chopped
1 large eggplant, trimmed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut grapefruit into segments, collecting juices. Place in abowl with parsley, onion and olives. Season well.
2. Cut eggplant into 8 thick slices. Blanch in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 mins. Drain and pat dry with paper towel. Chargrill on high for 1-2 mins each side, until golden.
3. Stack 2 slices of eggplant on each serving palte. Top with grapefruit mixture and drizzle over oil.

Serves 4


tip….
Blanching eggplant helps to reduce the absorption of oil when cooking, making it not only healthier but improves the texture as well.


try this ….
Eggplant & bocconcini melts
Blanch and chargrill thickly sliced eggplant. Form a stack by layering eggplant, sliced tomato and sliced bocconcini. Drizzle with a little oil and place under a grill for 2-3 mins, until bocconcini is starting to soften. Top with a few basil leaves before serving.


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Posted under cook
Posted on 3rd February 2010

Harvest | Eggplant

By MANDY SINCLAIR

eggplant

The most common debate when preparing eggplant is whether to salt or not! The main reason eggplant is salted, is to extract bitterness, however this only occurs due to aging and being stored too long before using. Freshly harvested eggplant should not have this problem.

Storing:
generally speaking, eggplant do not like cold temperatures and therefore can brown and alter the flavour if refrigerated. Once picked store in a cool place for about 2-3 days.

What to do with glut

  • Preserve:


Roasted eggplant

Trim ends and cut 1 cm thick slices. Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Blanch eggplant for 2mins. Drain. Lay onto a clean tea towel and pat dry. Heat a chargrill on high. Cook eggplant for 2 min each side, until golden and tender. Place in sterilized jars. Top with a bay leaf, 1 peeled clove of garlic and a sprig of thyme. Fill each jar with light olive oil, pressing down eggplant with back of a spoon to release any air. Seal and store in a cool, dark place. Refrigerate once opened.

  • Dry:

Eggplant chips. Thinly slice eggplant, lengthways. Lay, in a single layer on baking trays and brush with olive oil. Bake at 180C or 160C fan for 20-25 mins, until golden and crisp. Cool on trays and store in an airtight container.

Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under harvest
Posted on 2nd February 2010

Grow | Eggplant

By MEREDITH KIRTON

eggplant

Nothing could be more unlike an egg than the current day eggplant bushes, with their deep purple black skins, aubergine, as the French call them, really is a better fit.  On closer inspection of the varieties available however you see a similar story told of that of the tomato;  eggplants have been standardised for mass market appeal and handling ease.  Sadly, these stodgy, sometimes bitter examples taste nothing like a freshly picked eggplant, which rarely need salting and actually have a sweetness rarely tasted in shop bought examples which have often been stored too long for their own good.  Look around however and you’ll find many more interesting colours and shapes, from purple streaked skins Listada di Gandia, pure white ones (and yes, some of these are very much like eggs), long skinny Asian Eggplants and even round, pea shaped ones used a lot in Thai cooking.

staking eggplants

Eggplants love the heat so need to be planted out in mid to late spring when there is no chance at all of cold spells or frosts and in fact cope with the heat and humidity of February more than most other veggies.  They don’t grow as tall as tomatoes, but still require staking.  This is really just because they bear so well that a stake helps stop the bushes from falling over under their own weight of fruit.  The pretty purple flowers that herald fruit are actually quite ornamental, so don’t hide your bushes down the back, bring them to the fore to really enjoy them.  Plant some flowers or bee attracting plants, like basil, around each bush to encourage better pollination.

When picking the fruit, use a sharp knife or scissors as pulling them off will weaken their roots and make them more prone to rot.

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Posted under grow
Posted on 1st February 2010

harvest | basil

By MANDY SINCLAIR

Storage:
Basil will keep for up to 1 week after picking if kept in a glass of water in the refrigerator. The leaves bruise very easily so it is best to chop just before use.

What to do with glut

  • Freeze:

Blanch basil leaves in boiling water for 1-2 seconds. Drain and plunge into iced water, drain again. Pat dry, place in airtight bags and freeze. Use frozen in pasta sauces and soups.

I love the way we are returning to growing herbs and vegetables in our backyards. Container growing is becoming more popular in the city, most people starting with herbs.

  • Preserve:

My dear friend, 10 year old Nicky, is very passionate about growing as many different things as he can fit in the back yard. Being an avid cook he spends his weekends planting and tending to his various vegetables. He recently sent a jar of pesto over for me to taste test, I have to say it was delicious and worthy of sharing with our readers. This is his recipe, thanks Nicky!!!!

basil pesto

Pesto

2 cups basil leaves
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup pine nuts
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped

Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process until smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Nicky’s tip:
“I use whatever herbs I have abundance of, rocket, mint, parsley, coriander and even a mixture of them all”


Photography by SUE STUBBS | Blog designed by RED PEPPER GRAPHICS

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Posted under harvest