I have to include this recipe, which is the most frequently made biscuit in our kitchen. A zesty cheese shortbread that led to my career in food writing. How? I entered it in a cookery contest way back in 1964 where it won second prize in the whole of Australia! It brought me to the attention of Margaret Fulton, the cookery editor of the national magazine running the contest, and six months later she asked me to work with her. I was typing the manuscript of her first cookbook when the publisher asked me to write a book on South East Asian Cooking. The rest is history. I originally used parmesan, but if that is too strong for you, feel free to substitute an extra tasty or vintage cheddar.
The recipe that changed my life.
280g plain flour
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon paprika
1 level teaspoon medium chilli powder
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
200g parmesan (OR 150g extra tasty cheddar and 50g parmesan)
190g cold butter
Put all the dry ingredients into food processor with steel blade and pulse a few times to mix the salt, chilli and sesame seeds evenly through the flour. Add the cheese, diced, and continue to process until it is evenly mixed through. Then add the butter and process only until dough comes together on the blades. Remove and chill for a few minutes if the dough is soft. (I find that if the butter and cheese are cold, the dough is ready to extrude through my biscuit press.) Pipe onto ungreased baking trays and bake in a preheated 170°C oven for 12 minutes. Allow biscuits to cool on the baking trays, and when completely cold pack in an airtight container. These biscuits also freeze well.
If you like the way they look, the biscuit press I used is made by Marcato. Sawa also have a biscuit press with similar shapes and I used one for years, but the Marcato is easier to handle. If you can’t be bothered shaping them through a press, mould the dough into a cylinder and cut slices of equal thickness so they all bake in the same time. The little poppy seed centres, while they look cute, are the most time-consuming part of the recipe. Roll tiny balls of the biscuit dough in poppy seeds and place them on the biscuits before baking.
Thai Style Pumpkin Soup
What Australians know as pumpkin, Americans call squash. This recipe is equally tasty using Thai Red Curry in place of the Laksa Paste.
500g ripe butternut pumpkin, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice
200 mls coconut milk
200 mls water
2 tablespoons Singapore Laksa Paste
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 cup chicken stock or water if necessary
Put the diced pumpkin in a bowl and sprinkle with the lemon juice. Bring the coconut milk and water to a boil, stirring, and add the Laksa Paste. Add pumpkin and fish sauce and cook until pumpkin is tender, about 30 minutes. Use stick blender to make a smooth puree. Serve in shot glasses, warm or cold.
Vegetarian Rice Pilaf
You will never think of rice as bland again!
1½ cups basmati rice
1 carrot quartered lengthways and diced small
1 zucchini diced small
125g broccoli (stems diced, florets left whole)
1 red capsicum
2 tablespoons Tandoori Tikka Marinade
1 cup hot water
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
2 cups cold water
Wash the rice and drain well. Prepare the vegetables as described and put the carrot and broccoli stems into one small bowl, the zucchini, red capsicum and broccoli florets into another bowl. (Keep the hard vegetables separate from the quick-cooking ones so that they are all cooked at the same time.) Dissolve 1 tablespoon tandoori tikka marinade in a cup of hot water, add salt and cold water and pour over the rice in a rice cooker or saucepan with well fitting lid. Cook over low heat for 15 – 20 minutes.
Stir fry the hard vegetables in 2 tablespoons oil for 3 minutes, add the remaining tablespoon of marinade, stir well, cover and allow to steam for 1 minute. Add to the rice cooker or saucepan after 10 minutes of cooking time has elapsed, replace lid and let rice and vegetables finish cooking. Fork rice and vegetables gently to mix, and serve hot with a chutney and a spoonful of yoghurt. Serves 6
Serves 8 - 10
We are being warned that summer is going to be very warm, so here are some cool recipes to keep handy. Ideal for a dinner party as it may be made well ahead of time.
2 x 425g cans beef consomme
2 tablespoons gelatine
1 x 850g can sliced beetroot
1 small onion, finely grated
1 teaspoon salt
1 carton thick sour cream
Dilute consomme with 1½ cans of water. Sprinkle gelatine over ½ cup of the diluted consomme and leave to soak for 5 minutes, then stand cup in a saucepan of simmering water until gelatine dissolves. Add gelatine to consomme and stir. Drain liquid from beetroot and add 1½ cups. Cut beetroot slices into very fine strips and add to the consomme together with the grated onion and salt. Pour into a large bowl and chill overnight. Before serving chop roughly and pile into chilled soup bowls. Top each serving with a tablespoon of sour cream and sprinkle with chives.
Cold Zucchini Soup
Serves 8 - 10
In summer, a cold soup is always welcome. This has a pretty green colour and very delicate flavour.
1kg dark green zucchini
1 litre water
2 large chicken stock tablets
salt and white pepper to taste
1 litre milk
1 carton light sour cream
chopped chives for garnish, optional
Wash zucchini well, cut off stem ends and discard. Cut zucchini into thick slices. Bring water and stock tablets to the boil, drop in zucchini slices and cook, covered, for 10 - 15 minutes until zucchini are just tender and still bright green. Remove from heat, add milk and allow to cool. Puree in electric blender on high speed, not filling blender more than half full. Turn into a large bowl, season to taste with pepper and salt and chill overnight. At serving time pour soup into a tureen or glass bowl. Swirl sour cream through and sprinkle with finely snipped chives. Serve very cold.
On a hot day this chilled tomato soup is very refreshing and makes a light luncheon in itself.
1 kg firm ripe tomatoes peeled, seeded and diced.
2 green cucumbers peeled, seeded and diced
2 small onions peeled and finely chopped
2 red capsicums, seeded and chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup fine white breadcrumbs made from inside of crusty bread
3 cups cold water
1 cup white wine or 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
3 hard boiled eggs
1 cup diced white bread, trimmed of crusts
extra olive oil for frying
Put aside for garnishing the gazpacho 1 cup each of the diced tomatoes and cucumber and half the chopped onion and capsicum. Put remaining tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, capsicum, garlic and breadcrumbs into food processor and blend until smooth, adding some of the water if necessary. Turn into a bowl and mix in the water, wine or vinegar, olive oil and seasonings. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Put the reserved tomatoes, cucumbers and onion into separate bowls, cover and chill. Chop the hard-boiled eggs with a stainless knife and put into a bowl. Heat a little olive oil in a pan and fry the diced bread until golden. Lift out on a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Do that just before serving. If liked, a clove of garlic may be added to the oil to flavour it. Serve the soup in a chilled bowl with ice cubes added and surround the bowl with the bowls of accompaniments to be added to individual servings as desired.
Make the most of lovely, fresh seafood when it is available.
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
generous dash hot pepper sauce
1 teaspoon bottled horseradish cream
garlic salt to taste
2 cups shellfish (prawns, scallops, lobster)
brown bread and butter
Stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, tomato paste, hot pepper sauce, horseradish and garlic salt.. Taste and adjust seasoning. Prepare the seafood, shelling and deveining prawns and cutting everything into bite-size pieces. Combine with dressing, cover with plastic wrap and keep chilled until serving time. Put shredded lettuce in bottom of well chilled glasses or seafood cocktail glasses with crushed ice in base, divide seafood mixture equally and pile on top of lettuce. Serve accompanied by thin brown bread and butter sandwiches. Trim crusts off and cut each sandwich into four diagonally so they are very dainty.
Singapore Chilli Crab
The classic Singaporean dish that I first tasted at the night markets in the famous carpark, now long gone.
2 medium size raw crabs (1.5 kgs)
½ cup peanut oil
2 tspns finely grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 fresh red chillies, seeded and chopped
¼ cup tomato sauce
¼ cup chilli sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tspn salt
Wash crabs well, scrubbing away any mossy patches on the shell. Remove hard top shell, stomach bag and fibrous tissue, and with cleaver chop each crab into 4 pieces. Crack the large claws with the back of the cleaver. Heat a wok, add oil and when oil is very hot fry the crab pieces until they change colour, turning them so they cook on all sides. Remove to a plate, turn heat low and fry the ginger, garlic and chillies, stirring constantly, until they are cooked but not brown. Add the sauces, sugar, soy sauce and salt, bring to the boil, then return crabs to the wok and allow to simmer in the sauce for 3 minutes, adding very little water if sauce reduces too much. Serve with white rice.
Thai Salad on Betel Leaf
The zingy flavours of mint, coriander and Kaffir lime leaves takes tastebuds to sublime places.
150g Belgian whitloof, finely sliced
150g peeled and julienned yam bean
10g round mint leaves
10g coriander leaves
2 large Kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
50g thinly sliced purple shallots or Spanish onion
15g crispy shallots
40g shredded coconut, toasted
25 perfectly sized betel leaves
In a large bowl thoroughly combine the whitloof, yam, mint, coriander and lime leaf. This can be done a couple of hours ahead and bagged to retain freshness. As close to serving time as possible, slice the shallots and add with half the crispy shallots and the coconut. Combine well then mix in dressing thoroughly. Place 10- 15g salad per serve on a betel leaf. Sprinkle lightly with remaining crispy shallots. Dressing: 40g pale palm sugar, finely grated 1 tablespoon boiling water 2 tablespoons tamarind puree 1 tablespoon Reuben Solomon’s Roasted Chilli Jam 2 tablespoons Kara coconut cream Dissolve sugar with boiling water. Add remaining ingredients and cool before using.
Marinated Fish Salad
Another recipe for hot weather - the fish is cooked in lemon juice, not over heat. The acid in the lemon juice turns the fish white and opaque so that it looks cooked. Best fish to use is a delicately flavoured variety such as snapper, redfish or flathead.
1kg (2lb) firm white fish fillets
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium onions, very ghinly sliced
1 large red capsicum, diced
1 large green capsicum, diced
6 spring onions, finely sliced
3 or 4 firm red tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 large lettuce, washed and crisped
185g (6 oz) coconut milk
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
salt to taste
finely chopped parsley or coriander leaves
Remove all traces of skin and any bones from the fish. Cut into bite-size pieces and put into a glass or pottery bowl and add enough strained lemon juice to cover. Add salt and onions and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours, stirring once or twice while marinating. Avoid using metal spoon as it may react with the acid of the lemon juice. Prepare vegetables and chill. Mix ginger, garlic, pepper, turmeric and salt with the coconut milk. Combine fish with the coconut milk dressing and arrange on the lettuce. Sprinkle with chopped parsley or coriander and serve cold.
Another take on that classic cold soup.
4 leeks or 12 spring onions
4 medium potatoes
1 tablespoons butter
1 cup frozen peas
6 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Wash leeks well, using white part and about 2 inches of the green leaves. With a sharp knife make a cross cut into the leeks and separate leaves while washing to make sure no grit remains. Slice leeks finely. Peel potatoes and cut into thin slices. Heat butter in a saucepan and when melted put in the leeks or sliced spring onions and cook over low heat, covered, until soft but not brown. Add potatoes and stock, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, add peas and cook an additional minute or two. Cool the mixture, then put in a blender and whiz until smooth. Pass through a nylon sieve. Chill for at least 2 hours. Stir in cream and adjust seasoning. Serve in chilled soup cups. If liked, swirl a little extra cream on top and sprinkle with chopped chives.
Egg Flower Soup
5 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons Chinese wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
salt to taste
3 eggs, slightly beaten
4 spring onions, finely chopped
Bring stock to the boil, add wine and sesame oil. Add salt if necessary. Season beaten eggs with 1 teaspoon salt. Pour slowly into the fast boiling stock and stir once or twice. As soon as the eggs set in shreds that look like chrysanthemum petals, serve the soup garnished with chopped spring onions.
Butternut Pumpkin Soup
1 tablespoon butter
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1kg (2lb) butternut pumpkin
3 cups chicken stock or water and stock cubes
2 cups milk
pepper and salt to taste
½ cup cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (optional)
Melt butter and cook spring onions over low heat until soft and golden. Cut pumpkin into pieces, leaving skin on. Add to pan with stock, cover and cook 15 - 20 minutes or until pumpkin is tender. Allow to cool to lukewarm, then puree in blender or push through a fine sieve. Return to pan, add milk and season with salt and white pepper. Heat almost to boiling. Whip cream and put a spoonful of cream on top of each serving of soup. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve with small croutons if desired.
Gemfish Grilled on Skewers
Thick, fleshy pieces of fish are ideal for this spicy grilled entree.
l teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, crushed
l teaspoon curry powder
½ cup yoghurt
l tablespoon flour
1. Skin and wash fillets, dry them on kitchen paper and cut into large chunky pieces.
2. Combine all other ingredients and marinate the fish pieces in the mixture, mixing gently so that each piece is coated with the marinade. Allow to stand for 15 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator. If using bamboo skewers, you should soak them now to prevent them burning under the grill.
3. Preheat griller. While griller is heating, thread fish on metal or bamboo skewers, 4 or 5 pieces on each skewer.
4. Lightly oil griller tray or rack and place skewered fish 10cm (4 inches) away from heat. Grill for 4 or 5 minutes each side, depending on the thickness of fish. Serve with cooked rice or flat breads and a dish of sliced onions.
½ cup pine nuts or slivered almonds
¼ teaspoon Spanish saffron powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup cream
1. Wipe fish steaks over with damp kitchen paper then season generously with salt and pepper. Place on a buttered heatproof plate, pour the lemon juice over and place a sprig of fresh dill on each steak. Cover with buttered plate and steam over boiling water for 20 minutes.
2. While fish is steaming, fry the nuts for garnish and prepare the sauce. Heat a little olive oil and butter and fr the nuts over low heat until golden. Remove from heat immediately and drain on absorbent kitchen paper.
3. In a saucepan heat the 2 tablespoons butter and gently fry garlic and onion until soft and golden. Add saffron, pepper and milk and bring to the boil. Mix cornflour with a tablespoon of cold water and stir into the sauce until it boils and thickens.
4. Stir in cream, dill, and liquid that surround the fish steaks after steaming. Taste and add more salt and pepper as necessary.
5. Place fish steaks on a heated platter, pour the sauce over and sprinkle with the fried nuts. Serve immediately.
Greek-Style Fried Fish
75Og (l½ lbs)
white fish fillets
4 tablespoons flour
l teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
olive oil for frying
3 teaspoons very finely chopped garlic
½ teaspoon dried oregano leaves
¼ cup white wine or cider vinegar
¼ cup water
salt to taste
1. Wash and dry fish . Mix the flour evenly with the salt and pepper, dip the fish fillets in it and dust off excess.
2. In a large, heavy frying pan heat enough oil to cover base of pan and fry fish fillets until they are golden. Do not crowd pan. If they are thin fillets, this should only take about 2 minutes each side.
3. Lift fish to a dish on a slotted spoon. Pour off oil from pan, leaving only 2 tablespoons. Add garlic and oregano and stir over low heat for I minute or until garlic is golden.
4. Add wine or vinegar, water and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, simmer for a minute or two and pour over the fish. Serve hot or cold.
A baked fish recipe from Lebanon.
l large whole snapper or other delicate fish, about 2kg (4lb)
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons crushed garlic
1 teaspoon salt
¾ cup tahini
about ½ cup lemon juice
green and black olives
finely chopped parsley
1. Have the fishmonger clean and scale the fish, but ask him to leave the head on.
2. Wipe over the fish inside and out with wet kitchen paper towels. Rub it inside and out with salt.
3. Lay the fish in a large dish and rub generously all over and inside the cavity with olive oil. Wrap in 2 or 3 thicknesses of white butcher paper. There should be enough oil to soak through one layer of the paper.
4. Preheat oven to moderate, 170°C, 350°F. Bake the fish for 40 to 45 minutes.
5. Unwrap fish and put it on a serving dish, carefully peel away the skin, and mask the whole fish with Taratoor Sauce. Alternatively, present the fish in its skin and serve the sauce separately.
Taratoor Sauce: Crush garlic with salt until it is a smooth paste. Add the tahini gradually and little by little beat in lemon juice and enough water to give the consistency of thick pouring cream.
Note: Tahini is a sesame paste sold in cans or jars at delicatessens and Middle Eastern stores.
Herrings in Sour Cream
4 herring fillets in oil
2 small white onions
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
l cup sour cream
½ cup dry white wine
1. Rinse the herring fillets in cold water and drain on kitchen paper towels. Cut crosswise into bite-size slices.
2. Slice onions very thinly into rings.
3. In a glass bowl make layers of the herrings, onions, peppercorns and bay leaves. Mix together the sour cream and wine, pour over the fish and mix gently. Cover with plastic food wrap and chill overnight.
Tahitian Fish Salad
Don't worry about eating raw fish. Marinating in lemon juice will change its texture, and the dressing makes it really delicious. Just be sure your fish is very fresh.
750g (l½ lbs) fillets of snapper, or other delicate fish
juice of about 3 lemons
½ teaspoon salt
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 green cucumber, peeled and sliced
1 red and 1 green pepper, seeded and diced
radish roses to garnish
crisp lettuce leaves for serving
Coconut Milk Dressing:
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup water
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1. Remove all skin and bones from fish fillets and cut into small dice or short strips.
2. Squeeze juice from lemons. Put fish into a glass, pottery or plastic mixing bowl and add juice to cover, salt and onion. Marinate overnight in refrigerator, or at least for 6 hours, stirring once or twice with a non-metallic spoon.
3. At serving time drain away all the lemon juice. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers and coconut dressing and toss lightly. Arrange on a chilled platter lined with lettuce leaves and garnish with radish roses.
Dressing: Combine the coconut milk, water, ground turmeric, the garlic crushed with salt, and the grated ginger.