Midori and Lemon Sorbet

Time saver: Summer’s on its way, cool down with a refreshing sorbet.

Midori and lemon sorbet - in shotglassesThis is a variation on the classic lemon sorbet. The sweet melon flavour of the Midori complements the tartness of the lemons, while also adding a little colour. Although I’ve used Midori, you can probably get away with any of your favourite liqueurs/spirits.

Your freezer needs to be quite cold when making sorbet (or you’ll have to wait a long time for it to freeze). If you leave the sorbet too long without beating it (particularly before the first round of beating) the syrup may freeze solid. if that happens, just leave it to thaw for a few minutes, then beat and return to the freezer.

Midori and Lemon Sorbet

If well beaten, this recipe makes just shy of 1 litre.

  • 2 c water (use filtered/bottled water if the tap water is chlorinated)
  • 1½ c white sugar
  • 1 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (around 6-8 lemons, more if they’re small)
  • 3 Tbsp Midori Liqueur
  1. Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan, heat on a hot element, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved.
  2. Let it come to the boil, and simmer for two minutes, then remove from the heat.
  3. While the syrup cools, juice the lemons. Strain the juice through a sieve into the saucepan of syrup, add the Midori, and mix well.
  4. Pour the syrup into a shallow freezer proof bowl and place bowl in the freezer. (I normally just use an old 2 litre ice cream container.)
  5. Leave to freeze for a couple of hours, then retrieve the bowl and beat with electric beaters/stick mix. After beating, return to the freezer.
  6. Repeat the beating process a couple more times, with hour long intervals. The more you beat it, the lighter and smoother the sorbet.
  7. Serve in chilled glasses. For a palate cleanser, use 40ml shot glasses, for dessert use larger chilled martini glasses.

Midori and Lemon Sorbet - in cocktail glass

Pan-fried haloumi with balsamic roasted tomatoes and salad

Time saver: Is it possible to transcend deliciousness? To go so far beyond it that mere words could never capture the experience? To leave people speechless with nothing to do but lick their plates? But of course…

Haloumi Balsamic SaladI came up with this as the entrée for my Retour tribute menu. It uses pan-fried haloumi, along with balsamic roasted tomatoes and a balsamic reduction to really pack in a lot of flavour. (The reduction is sweet, sticky, strong flavoured, with a tart fruity flavour. The tiniest of drops is a taste sensation. If you haven’t had it before, it’s almost unbelievable that balsamic vinegar can be transformed like this.)

This gives two lunch sized main servings. For entrée sized servings, use the same amount but distribute between four plates.

Pan-fried Haloumi with Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes, Pine Nuts and Salad with a Balsamic Reduction

  • Balsamic roasted tomatoes, prepared according to the recipe
  • 200g haloumi cheese, cut into slices around 5mm thick
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 2 Tbsp (approx 15g) pine nuts
  • ½ c balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 90-100g mesclun salad greens
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Toast pine nuts in a small frying pan over a medium-high heat – stir or shake the pan frequently to cook evenly. Once browned, remove from heat and transfer pine nuts to a small bowl/plate and set aside.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar to a small pan and bring to the boil over a high heat, then add the sugar. Stir constantly to avoid burning the vinegar, and reduce to around ¼ of its previous volume (i.e. this yields about 2 Tbsp of reduction), at which point it should become syrupy. Avoid breathing in the fumes as you’re cooking, it’s essentially boiling hot acid and you will know about it.  Remove from heat and set aside. (As it cools the reduction will thicken – if it’s too cool it will be hard to drizzle, so you can heat it a little or add a little hot water to get it free-flowing again.)
  3. Divide the salad greens between two plates, piling them into the centre of the plates.
  4. Heat a large (ish) frying pan over a medium-high heat.
  5. When hot, melt the butter in the pan, then quickly add the sliced haloumi. Fry on the first side for around two minutes till golden brown, then flip and fry for another 60-90 seconds on the other side. (The pan needs to be quite hot before adding the haloumi to ensure the cheese fries and browns, rather than melts.)
  6. Transfer haloumi to a standby plate, then assemble the meal as follows.
  7. Place around half the tomatoes on top of the plated salad, then arrange the fried haloumi on top of it. Distribute the remaining tomatoes on top of the haloumi. Sprinkle each plate with 1 Tbsp each of the toasted pine nuts. Using a teaspoon, drizzle balsamic reduction over the tops of the salads, going side to side across the plate in a weave pattern. Then turn the plate 90 degress and drizzle 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil on to each salad, again in a side to side weave pattern. Then serve.

Haloumi Balsamic Salad 2

Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes

Time saver: if you’re going to eat tomatoes, eat them like this…

Balsamic Roasted TomatoesThese tomatoes have an intense flavour and are great as part of an antipasto platter or in a salad. Mum taught me how to make these. I’m not sure if she got them off a recipe or made it up herself, but I’ve come up with the measurements below and they seem to work.

Note that you can use all sorts of different tomatoes when making these, you may need to adjust the cooking time down if using really small tomatoes, but the basic principle will be the same.

Balsamic Roasted Tomatoes

  • 500g fresh ripe tomatoes (about 4 medium-large ones) or 300g smaller tomatoes
  • 1-2 cloves finely chopped/1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • several sprigs of fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried thyme)
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  1. Heat oven to 200°C.
  2. Cut tomatoes into segments. If large, cut into sixths or eighths, if smaller, cut into halves or quarters.
  3. Arrange tomatoes skin down (cut sides up) in a small roasting pan (optionally lined with baking paper).
  4. Distribute the garlic evenly among the tomatoes, dropping a little bit onto each one with a teaspoon. Be sure to get some on every piece of tomato.
  5. Season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
  6. Lay sprigs of thyme across the tops of the tomatoes, again, ensure that all tomatoes come into contact with the thyme. Alternatively, if using dried thyme, sprinkle evenly over the tomatoes.
  7. Gently drizzle the olive oil over the tomatoes, then do the same with the balsamic vinegar.
  8. Place tomatoes in the oven, and cook for 60 minutes. Check at 10 minute intervals after cooking for 40 minutes. When ready the tomatoes will have reduced in size, and be starting to brown around the edges. (If you keep cooking past this point they’ll get smaller and crispier – they’re still surprisingly tasty even when well-charred…)
  9. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, then remove the sprigs of thyme from the top, transfer the tomatoes to a serving dish and serve.

Balsamic Tomatoes Ready For Oven

Garlic chilli prawns

Time saver: prawns are so hot right now.

Garlic Chilli PrawnsWhen we last visited Waiheke my aunt made us these delicous prawns for lunch. (Along with a bunch of other stuff, we were spoiled.) I asked her how she’d made them and I’ve been copying her ever since. I didn’t get an exact recipe, but the ingredients and method are hers (just not sure about quantities).

Raw prawns work best, but if you can’t get them/find them then you can get away with pre-cooked ones. I take the easy option and use shelled, de-veined prawn cutlets. If you want to do all the hard work yourself you can buy whole prawns. Just be sure to remove everything but the tail, and don’t forget to slice down the middles of the backs to remove the vein.

Chilli flakes don’t have the same heat as fresh chillies, but you can alter the quantity according to your tastes. Bought ones are fine, but I made my chilli flakes from home-grown chillies. Just cut chillies in half and de-seed, then dry them out either in a low oven (over an hour or two) or in a hot-water cupboard (over a week or two). Then pulverise in a blender to get appropriately sized flakes. (If you’ve got a proliferation of chillies this is a good way to use them up – it takes a lot of fresh chillies to get even a small quantity of chilli flakes.)

Feel free to alter the quantities to suit – the recipe scales well. Besides lunches you can also serve these as a tapas style appetiser.

Garlic Chilli Prawns – serves 2 (for lunch)

  • 250g shelled, de-veined prawns
  • 1/2 tsp or 1 clove crushed/finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt, to taste
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small lemon, cut into wedges
  1. Heat frying pan on high heat.
  2. Add oil, and heat briefly, then add garlic, stir and cook for a few seconds.
  3. Add prawns to the frying pan and sprinkle chilli flakes over, then cook, stirring frequently.
  4. Cook for around 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat. (Raw prawns will change colour, with the tails going red. Cooked prawns will already be red – in that case you just need to heat them through, but they’ll probably still take 2 minutes or so to do that.)
  5. Season with salt, then serve with lemon wedges and bread.

Poached Eggs

Time saver: Phil tries out the different methods of poaching eggs, and finds a clear winner.

Poached egg with broken yolkIt’s been a while between posts, but I’ve been busy trying things out. (Coming soon: calamari, beer battered-anything, braised beef casserole, and more.) Anyway, this is another recipe for my weekend brunch collection.

If you like a poached egg you already know the attraction. The hot buttered toast, the delicate poached egg with that rich flowing yolk, topped with a sprinkling of freshly cracked black pepper. Oh yes. And then there’s eggs benedict (my personal favourite), an english muffin, a layer of smoked salmon or bacon, the poached egg, covered in a smooth dome of creamy hollandaise sauce.

Poaching eggs is one of those things that sounds simple in principle, but doesn’t always work out that way in practice. An egg, a pot of water, how hard can it be? Well, if you’ve ever tried it and had an egg completely disintegrate on you, or turn into a disappointing whispy vapour, or been left with nothing but a hard little ball of yolk you already know. Sometimes it works just fine, but the eggs still come out looking not quite right.

That’s why cafes can get away with charging you $10 for a couple of bits of bread with a couple of eggs on them. Not that cafes always get it right. My wife and I recently went to a local cafe and ordered eggs benedict (I’m 50/50 as to whether I should name them, but the first time I went I really liked it, so they get one more chance). Instead of poached eggs we were given hard-boiled eggs – not exactly what we were expecting, and that was before my wife discovered the bits of egg shell they’d neglected to remove. The taste, the texture, the crunch of egg shell, all added up to disappointment. (Not to mention the bland and paltry serving of hollandaise.)

So what if there was a way to poach eggs yourself while getting a top result and saving yourself a fortune? That’s what I’ve been working on. There’s a lot of different advice on how to poach an egg correctly, here’s some of the methods I’ve heard/read about, and tested out (just about all of these techniques require you to use very fresh eggs – within 4 days of being laid):

  • the simple, heat water in a pan, add some vinegar, crack the egg in and hope it stays together. It sometimes works – you need really fresh eggs and a good bit of luck. Even then the eggs spread quite a lot, but the result isn’t too bad.
  • the swirl the water in the pan, crack the egg into a dish, and slide it into the middle of the vortex. Supposedly the whirlpool effect catches the edges of the egg, wrapping it around itself and creating a good shape. (In my experience you get a lot of the egg getting blown out to the sides, you can only cook one at a time, and at 2-3 minutes per egg, it doesn’t exactly scale.)
  • the “use salt”/”vinegar tastes gross” approach. Don’t use salt, it weakens the egg white and far from helping will actually make it harder to get a good poached egg. Besides, I like the faint taste of vinegar on the egg (if you really don’t, you’re better off using nothing rather than salt – or maybe try lemon juice).
  • the deep pan/pot approach. This actually works quite well – you heat a lot of water up in a deep pot to the point just before it boils, add vinegar, then crack your egg into a dish and slide into the pot. Again you need fresh eggs, but following this approach I’d get about 3 out of every 4 eggs turning out fine.
  • the egg-poacher – I used to use our one a lot, since it took a lot of the stress out – essentially it’s a double boiler setup, each egg sits in its own little cup that’s suspended over a pan of boiling water. The drawbacks are probably in the taste/texture – it’s a bit more like a hard-boiled egg than a poached one.
  • the “Julia Child” approach. You heat the water in the pot/pan to almost boiling, then drop each of the eggs in for 10 seconds (still in their shells), remove them then crack into a dish and slide into the pot. Unlike the other techniques your eggs don’t have to be fresh (I’ve used 3 week old eggs and had great results) and you get a reliably good poached egg. We have a winner.

I haven’t actually seen Julia Child’s poached egg recipe – so it was all hearsay – but I tried out her technique, and I can heartily recommend it. If you’re having trouble getting the eggs to stick together, if you don’t have perfectly fresh eggs, or if you’ve never even tried poaching eggs before, this is the way to do it.

Poached eggs – serves 2

  • 4 free-range eggs (if you’ve ever walked through a battery-hen shed this one is obvious)
  • 1-2 Tbsp white vinegar
  • freshly cracked black pepper and salt, to taste
  • 4 pieces of bread (for toast)
  • butter (for toast)
  1. Heat plenty of water in a saucepan/stock pot/deep skillet – around 10cm (4″) deep – until it’s just about boiling (you can use water as little as 4cm deep, but I find I get better shaped eggs with deeper water). Reduce the heat so the water never actually boils (i.e. there should be little air bubbles on the bottom, but it shouldn’t actually simmer).
  2. Drop each of the eggs into the water for 10 seconds, then remove them. (Put your toast on at this point.)
  3. One by one, crack each egg into a small dish/saucer, then gently slide into the water. (You can crack them directly into the water, but the saucer gives you more control.)
  4. Cook the eggs in the water for around 2-3 minutes (2 for a nice runny yolk).
  5. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon/fish slice and place on a plate. Pat dry with paper towels, and trim any messy parts of the egg white. (Alternatively, you can prepare the eggs the night before – if doing that, cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the hot water and immediately plunge into icy cold water to stop the cooking process. Once cooled, transfer to a plate, pat dry and trim as per usual then cover and store in the fridge. The next day, reheat by putting back into a pan of hot water and heating for up to a minute.)
  6. Transfer each egg to a piece of hot buttered toast, then season with salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

Poached eggs