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Category Archives: Main meals

Main meals and sides

Kuzu Gnocchi with Pea Soup

Well, first of all – a huge thanks to Dani for mentioning my humble blog on her Facebook page.  And welcome to my new followers!  I hope that I can give you some pre-cooking tips for the divine recipes from “In The Mix”.

I would love to hear from you, especially if you have any particular recipes you want me to try soon – or if you have any feedback on other stuff you want me to include in my rambles – or that you don’t want me to mention.

So, my project today was Kuzu Gnocchi with Pea Soup.  (It was supposed to be yesterday’s project, but I had some trouble locating kuzu – even the local Japanese supermarket didn’t have it) Anyway, I tracked kuzu down at a Health Food shop locally – it’s the organic one and it was about $10 for 100 grams.  It’s a weird looking stuff – white and chunky crunchy bits – so much so I wasn’t sure if I should sift it before I added it to the gruyere mix.  I didn’t and it seems to have turned out ok… time will tell!

For those who have the book, Dani has modified the recipe slightly since the first publication, and the new version will be in her third reprint.  So I used the new version, which is on the In the Mix Facebook page.  It’s actually a pretty easy sauce to make, the challenge comes with creating the gnocchi (and as some of you would know, I am piping challenged).

This recipe is from Raymond Capaldi, who is the chef at Hare and Grace, Melbourne.

First of all, I hadn’t eaten Gruyere cheese for ages.  I’d forgotten how good it was, and I may just have cut of a little chunk or two for myself while I was making this.  You can also make this with mozzarella, if you are so inclined.  But Gruyere it was – and it was dead easy.  Cut the cheese into smallish cubes (I managed about 15 or so cubes for the 60 grams) as it will make the initial noise of the cheese hitting the thermomix bowl lessen.

If I had my time again, I’d have the kuzu pre-measured – so do that first before you start cooking anything – otherwise you’ll do what I did and end up with some kuzu sticking to the MC – unless you’re someone who inverts your MC all the time –  which was a bit of a pain.

I still haven’t got around to getting a decent piping bag, so I cheated and used the old zip lock bag, but this time I used a nozzle with it that I had from an icing set.  Worked like a dream, although the mixture can be pretty hot on your hands – even if you let it cool down a little.  When you’re piping the gnocchi, you need to do it in a bowl of iced water.  I’m lucky as I have an ice water dispenser in the fridge, but make sure you have this ready to go – and my suggestion would be to have the water in a large, shallow dish so you can get lots of gnocchi in the one dish, without having to crowd them together.  Mine are in two bowls – one with high sides, which made life difficult for the piping, and one large flat bottomed soup bowl, which actually worked quite well. I started off having some ice cubes in the water, but ended up taking them out as they caused more trouble than they were worth.  You could probably use a lamington tray if you were  going to use the gnocchi immediately, but if you’re planning of keeping them in the fridge in water for a few days then use something you can easily seal.  I have two bowls taking up lots of space in the fridge, as I was too scared to try and move them all into one different bowl…they just look a little too frail.  Might attempt it before I cook them tonight and see how I go.

The pea soup component is so easy – and taste delicious if the spoonfuls I’ve had while cooking it are anything to go by. It has lemon zest in it, which really adds a lovely tang to it.  I’m hoping that Master 3 might even dare to try some – he used to love peas and has gone completely off them of late.  And there’s nothing like the taste of fresh peas – makes you wonder why we ever bother with the frozen kind!

I also took Dani’s suggestion and made the parsley oil to go with this, which I’ll blog separately.  It looks, smells and tastes absolutely beautiful!

So, I’ve just eaten it – absolutely delicious.  The pea soup is lovely and thick and is a lovely shade of mid green.  I think in retrospect I should have piped the gnocchi a little larger, but the good news is that once they are chilled well in the ice water they are a little more amenable to moving! I made mine about 1.30 and cooked them at 7, and stored them in the fridge in water in between.  They firmed up quite nicely, but they are slippery little suckers, so be careful when you’re using the slotted spoon to get them out of the bowl of iced water.

Be sparing with the olive oil when you heat them through before you serve the gnocchi component – they melt pretty quickly – I guess they wouldn’t if they were larger – so use a large frying pan and spread them out so they don’t melt together.  Mine lost their shape a lot, but it also could have been that all the kuzu didn’t make it into the mixture, and I was a bit nervous about adding some extra in as I wasn’t familiar with using it.

I was a little lazy and served this in a large bowl rather than a plate, and if presentation is important to you, I’d definitely use a plate in future as I think it makes the dish look far more impressive.  We were being naughty and eating on the couch, so I didn’t want to risk the whole lot going west – so bowls it was.  Definitely use the parsley oil if you can – it looks and tastes beautiful.  If I had served it on a plate, I could have spread it artistically around the pea soup, but I just put in a few splodges and although it didn’t look pretty, it tasted great!

So – the family review was positive – we’ll definitely have these again! We had this as a dinner rather than an entree and it was quite enough for 2 adults with healthy appetites and a small serve left over for Master 3 tomorrow!

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Entrees, Main meals

 

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Pesce Puttanesca

This is going to be on high rotation in this house – it’s easy, quick, and tastes beautiful!

I had some sugo left from a batch that I made last week to use with the Mozzarella Macaron recipe, and as luck would have it – it was exactly the amount I needed for this recipe.  So yesterday afternoon I decided to attempt this recipe.  Pretty much everything in the recipe is a pantry or fridge staple in this house, and we have a great fishmongers close by.  So off I trotted yesterday afternoon and bought three pieces of rockling.  I hadn’t eaten rockling in ages, and I had forgotten what a great flavour it has.

The sugo was a pretty standard one with tomato, garlic, thyme, oregano and basil and some sugar to take away the tartness, drizzled with some olive oil and cooked in the oven for an hour or so, then blitzed up in the thermomix.  Mixed with a couple of fresh tomatoes, zucchini, olives, capers, and lemon zest, it made a great puttanesca sauce, which you cook down at the same time as steaming your fish.  In the last couple of minutes, you can add some spinach to the varoma tray, and before you know it, dinner is on the table.  You could even use broccoli, broccolini, or other greens instead.  I served with my famous roast potatoes.

Why are my roasties so dark you ask?  Well, I was on a timeline for dinner at 5 so we could eat with our toddler.  Put the roasties on at 4 and about 20 minutes later a friend called to say they were calling past shortly… so dinner was on hold for the grown ups. Master Three ate a pan fried piece of rockling with roasties and carrot.  He wasn’t that keen on the rockling until I named it “chicken of the sea” and then he ate every bit!

I’ve never re-heated roast potatoes before, and these weren’t too bad – they kept their glass like crunch and were fluffy inside – they were just a little on the suntanned side.   In the end we got another fillet of fish and our visitor joined us for dinner as well – she is still in awe of the thermomix, as she is every time she comes to visit.

I was lazy and used lemon rind in large strips, but if you want something finer, blitz your peeled rind first before you cook off your onions and garlic, set it aside and add with your olives and capers. I also wouldn’t usually serve in a bowl but this became a sitting on the couch meal rather than a sitting at the dining table meal!

Absolutely delicious!

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in Main meals

 

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Hainanese Chicken and Egg

This is a recipe in a few stages, so it does take quite a bit of time – although a lot of it is handsfree, hassle free cooking – one of the things I love most about my thermomix.  You do the basics, set it, press the button, and walk away – and when you come back, dinner is made!  What could be easier?

This recipe is from Trissa Lopez (see her website at trissalicious.com).

I have only had Hainanese Chicken and Egg a few times in my life – but one of them was a meal that stands out in my memory.  I was in Singapore, coming home from a long work trip.  I was exhausted, sick of eating airline food and hotel food, and just wanted to sit on a bed and watch TV and try and feel like I had a life. I saw this dish on the room service menu.  I ordered it, and it was divine.  Real comfort food!  I still haven’t had one that matches the Singapore experience, but this one was pretty good!

If you wanted to make it a little quicker (it takes 3 hours, plus extra time for brining the chicken) you could do the rice the conventional way, or do the poached egg the traditional way.  For mine, I love the way that the thermomix cooks rice AND poached eggs, so I used it for both.  The thermomix poached eggs are a little time consuming…but amazing – and no pan to clean up. I always thermomix my poached eggs now – they are just so good.

Want the recipe?  Check the recipe tab on my home page!

There are four steps to this recipe.  You brine the chicken, then cook that in the flavoured oil that you make.  Then you cook the rice and poach the eggs, then serve.  The eggs are best if you cook them just before serving.

Here are my tips:

I made the brining mixture first.  I always use raw sugar now I have a thermomix, and the salt I used was rock salt.  Because I didn’t want to put the chicken in warm water (which I suspect I would have needed to use to dissolve the sugar and the salt), I put in the the TM bowl to weigh, and then blitzed it for a few seconds to break it down a bit.  Then I poured the mix into a big bowl, and added the wet ingredients.  It must have worked as there was no residue at the bottom of the bowl after the brining was finished.  Brining the chicken makes it amazingly tender, really falling apart kind of tender – delicious!

The flavoured oil is dead easy.  I cleaned the ginger and then cut it into slices – they weren’t too thin.  Once the oil is finished, it takes on a cloudy appearance, so I found it difficult to put the thighs in between the blades.  Next time I’ll empty the oil into another bowl or jug, arrange the chicken between the blades, and then pour the oil over the top.

I used free range, skinless chicken thighs.  Next time I’ll do the skin on, as I think I prefer the crunchy skin once you’ve pan fried them for a few minutes at the end.  If I had have arranged the thighs a little better between the blades, then I wouldn’t have had to keep peeking to see how the cooking was going – I think my prodding broke some of the thighs up a little… I had a few perfect ones, and a few that ended up in pieces.

Rice cooking in a thermomix is a dream.  Perfect rice, every single time!  I think next time I’ll cook the rice in chicken stock rather than plain water, as I think it gives the rice more flavour.  But that’s just a personal preference.

Overall, a good recipe – one that I’d never attempted to make before.  I’m glad I did!!

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Main meals

 

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Salmon Confit with Sorrel Sauce

Salmon Confit with Sorrel Sauce

My first “In The Mix” or Thermomix failure – ever!  Not bad going I guess after two and a half years of ownership, and it wasn’t a complete disaster, maybe I’m just a heathen when it comes to sous vide salmon? Or maybe the fillets I bought were too thick?  And to top it all off, a bad photo to boot.  Just must have been a bad day.  Come to think of it, I did make it on Friday the 13th?!?

I followed the recipe word for word, but to my palate, the salmon was just too under-done for me. I usually don’t mind my salmon very pink in the middle, and I love sashimi and sushi, but maybe I was expecting something more well ummm – cooked.  Or at least warm.  I had already plated the salmon and started to eat it, but had to put it in the microwave for a burst before I could eat all of it.  I put the salmon, oil, lemon rind and herbs in a zip lock bag, squeezed out as much air as I could, and then put it in a sponge tin on the top layer of the varoma.  I struggled to find something that would fit the bag, allow enough water to almost cover the bag, and would fit under the lid of the varoma.  I wanted to use the top tray as I thought then it wouldn’t be such a hassle propping up the dish to leave the steamer holes unblocked.  I’m not sure if using the top tray was one of my mistakes, but I will try it again on the bottom tray and see how it goes.

Anyway, I’ve emailed to check whether there is typo in the recipe and it should be at varoma rather than 100 degrees as is mentioned in the book, so I’ll let you know.

I couldn’t find sorrel – and on googling, it’s a spring crop, so that would explain it – so I used baby spinach instead.  The spinach was lovely, but looked more like a spinach puree than the picture in the book (which I know is probably sorrel, and maybe they wilt down differently). The spinach needed quite a bit of seasoning, so make sure you taste it before you plate it up.

I’m a little greedy and to be honest I never feel like I’ve eaten until there’s some carbohydrate on the plate, so to accompany the salmon and spinach, I made Pommes Anna, which is just a fancy name for thinly sliced potato brushed with butter and cooked at about 200 degrees celsius for about an hour.

So, onwards and upwards.  I’m going to try this again!!

UPDATE!!

Dani has just emailed me – and the temperature is right.  Apparently there are a few variables with this recipe:

– The starting temperature of the water in the TM bowl.  (Mine would have been pretty cold)

– The thickness of the fillets (and mine were on the thick side)

– Air in the bag

So, I’ll give it a crack again this week and let you know how I get on.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2012 in Main meals

 

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Crab and Prawn Polenta

What a great, quick, impressive dish!  It takes no time to put together, and would be lovely served with a small side salad.  It’s quite rich, so the amount you make would easily be a main course for 4 people – even more if you served a starter.

I had my parents over for dinner the other night – and I didn’t want anything too fussy to serve them.  I was on my own – with a toddler, which meant feeding, bathing, pyjama-ing, and putting to bed as well as getting a half decent meal on the table.  This recipe looked as easy as pie – and really, it is – so simple, so quick, and really, really delicious.

I was a bit lazy and bought the crab meat already shelled and picked.  In an ideal world, I would have liked to have cooked the crab myself, but I just didn’t have time that day. I’ve never cooked crabs or lobster, and I’m going to have to remedy that – soon!

Believe it or not, I had to search high and low for the quick cook polenta.  I couldn’t find it ANYWHERE!  I had some slow cooking polenta in the cupboard, but the quick cook stuff was somewhat elusive.  I ended up getting it at Leo’s Supermarket, even though Woolworths said they stocked it – I couldn’t find it anywhere, and I couldn’t find anyone to help me look for it.  What’s more, they put the slow cooking polenta and the quick cooking polenta in completely different areas of the supermarket, as I discovered when I actually found the quick cook stuff at Woolworths today on my weekly shopping venture.

Anyway, the crab and the prawns were easy to get.  The other challenge ingredient was chervil.  I’ve never cooked with chervil before and couldn’t find anywhere that stocked it – even dried :-(. So while I was at my third greengrocer, I googled it and found a site that recommended using 1 teaspoon of dried parsley flakes, plus one eighth of a teaspoon of rubbed, dried sage.  So that I did. I’m not sure exactly what chervil is supposed to taste like, but the parsley and sage tasted pretty good to us.

I used the Simon Johnson truffle oil, which was lovely.  I also use that for some of my mushroom risottos, one of the Thermomix staples!  It really lifts the dish from good to great.

The polenta is lovely and soupy and is very rich and satisfying.  I loved it, but couldn’t contemplate seconds.  What I did not use, I put into tupperware and had for my dinner the next night, reheated in a steam microwave with the lid on the tupperware.  

My tips for this recipe:

Even if the crab meat says it’s picked and cleaned, do have a look through and give it a bit of a rinse.  I discovered a few gritty bits in mine.

The recipe also calls for the prawns to be cut into 2 or 3 pieces.  Next time, I’d actually leave them whole (deheaded, tailed and de-veined) as the prawns I bought were on the small side.  If you are using King Prawns, you could cut them into two or three, but small prawns cut into two were too small for me, and I like seeing chunks of prawn rather than tiny little bits.

Always use great parmesan and grate it yourself!

Approximate cost of non pantry ingredients for this recipe was:

Ocean Blue Brand Crab Claw – 140g x 2 – total $15.98

Prawns: $5.00

Creme Fraiche: $5.48

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in Entrees, Main meals

 

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Beef Stir Fry

I was a bit taken aback when I saw a Stir Fry recipe in Dani’s book – I know my thermomix is versatile, but I had never really considered doing a stir fry in it.

First of all, I’m a bit of a lazy stir-fryer – think already chopped veggies in a bag from the supermarket and the beef strips already cut up by the good folk at Woolworths.  I did attend an Asian cooking class last year with one of my friends, and it was great, but I just hadn’t caught the bug enough to try out much of it at home.  Chucking in some oyster sauce, sesame oil and a bit of soy sauce is about as creative as I have ever been in terms of marinading the meat, and I must admit it’s usually been done as I’ve been cooking the meat, not actually marinading before cooking if you catch my drift.

Anyway, all that aside, I thought I’d give the Beef Stir-Fry a go.  It was a stir fry kind of night, the nights are getting a little bit shorter here, and it was getting cold, so what better than a stir fry?  I also thought it might convince the young Sir to try a few vegetables that he otherwise might not – he didn’t, but that’s another story!

My tips:

Trim the rump/porterhouse really well before you marinade.  You don’t want to eat steamed fat!!

The marinade is great, and I love the way the remnants of it flavour the rice as it’s cooking.  It really makes a tasty rice, which makes a lovely difference from the boring old plain rice I usually do with stir fry.

If I had my time again, I would not put the meat in the thermoserver once it’s cooked.  I’d cover with foil and rest on a plate, as my rump ended up a little over-done for my taste – I always like my meat to be pink. The thermoserver does a great job of keeping the rice hot, but do make sure you fluff it up with a fork before you dish it out into the serving bowls. I think the retained heat cooked the meat a little more than I usually would have done.

The omelette is easy, and quick.  Next time I think I’ll season the eggs a little, and maybe even throw in a few chilli slices and some sliced spring onion, just to see what it’s like.

Now, I happen to not be a huge ginger fan, but I used the ginger as stated in the recipe.  Sadly, the chillies I had bought at the supermarket disappeared somewhere between the supermarket and home – so I ended up using a chilli paste, which I don’t think was as good as the real thing.  Personally, I thought the ginger flavour in the end dish was a little overpowering, but that might just be me.  Next time I’ll reduce the ginger quantity by half.

I used some bok-choi, purple cabbage, and broccolini for my vegetables.  I couldn’t find baby corn anywhere around – I’m guessing it’s out of season at the moment.  I also thought I had some carrots in the fridge, and I didn’t, so I’d definitely use carrot and baby corn next time – it’s just not stir fry without it.  Next time I must remember to cut the vegetables smaller – I was a little pushed for time, so they were a little rough and ready I’m afraid.

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Main meals

 

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Veiled Pilaf

What a great, easy meal for a family!  Loved it, even though in my haste to serve it up I forgot to put the cinnamon and icing sugar on it, and toss over some more currants and nuts.  Sometimes, I am sure I am turning into my mother!

I was all excited about using some preserved lemons my sister had given me a while ago for this recipe, however when I went to use them, I found that the top had gone mouldy, so I had to forget the preserved lemon this time.  It’s a dish I’ll definitely be making again, I think it would make a great picnic dish as well, so once the warm weather returns, it will definitely be on the must make list.

The serving size was just right – we had it as a main meal and it served 4 perfectly.  I served it up with a non thermomix spinach, semi dried tomato and Persian Fetta salad, and it was lovely.

Here are my tips:

Use good chicken stock to cook the rice.  The flavour of the rice is all important in this dish, so if you have home made chicken stock that tastes great, use it!  I didn’t, and used the old Campbell’s Real Stock.  The result was good, but I don’t think you can beat real chicken stock.  (And, believe it or not, I’ve never made the chicken stock that’s in one of the Thermomix recipe books – I promise I will one day, I just get phobic around chicken going bad somehow and fear poisoning my family and friends)  I am not usually a fan of dried fruit in savoury recipes, but this really impressed me – the amount of currants wasn’t overpowering, and were just the right size.  Personally, I think currants are about as big as you’d want to go, although I am considering using chopped up dried cranberries next time.

Dani is right when she says the method of shredding chicken in the thermomix that she describes is the best.  I usually detest shredding chicken, it either takes me an age or I do it too quickly and it looks revolting.  The method she uses, putting the steamed chicken in the thermomix bowl, and blitzing for 5 seconds on reverse/speed 4 is just so easy, and gives a great, consistent result.  I am a big chicken fan, poisoning phobia not withstanding, and I think you could actually use more chicken in this recipe, although you’d probably have to do two lots of chicken steaming, as the 3 chicken thighs cut into three pieces each go a long way in terms of covering up holes in the varoma basket.

Seasoning is all important in this dish, so make sure you taste, taste and taste again to get the seasoning right.

I used two kinds of nuts – just because they are what I already had in the pantry and already opened.  They were almonds (which I blanched and slivered) and pistachios.

I always get a little nervous working with filo pastry.  I was only able to get the frozen stuff – not my first option usually, and it can be a bit difficult to work with, as I find it dries out super quickly.  Make sure you have your melted butter ready to go as soon as you’ve unrolled the filo. I didn’t used the recommended 50 grams of butter – I just melted a little ramekin of butter I already had in the fridge, and I don’t think it was enough, as my end result looked a little anaemic, and i would have preferred it to be a  little more toasty brown.

I used a regular large kitchen bowl from our dinner set as the mould for the pilaf.  It was a nice shape and held the amount cooked perfectly – pure luck on my part!  The bowl is 20.5 cm wide and 6 cm deep if that helps.

I chose to leave the topping sheets of filo ragged rather than tucked in.  To make it look more attractive next time, I’ll skew each of the topping sheets a little to make it look more ragged, and not just like a few sheets of film plopped on as a lid. Presentation fail for me!

Another tip would be to cook it on an oven-proof presentation platter, rather than a baking tray. If you used baking paper, you can tear it off around the edges before serving it up. It would make life much easier than transferring it to a nicer looking platter!

After 10 minutes of cooking, when you take the bowl/mould off the pilaf, it’s pretty easy to do.  Just make sure you use oven gloves, or tongs.  Next time, I might also take the opportunity to put some more butter on it, just to make it brown up a little more.

And, of course – don’t forget the final garnish with the cinnamon, icing sugar and extra nuts and currants!!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Main meals

 

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