Saturday, March 08, 2008

Orecchiette with Cherry Tomatoes and Ricotta

Last time I went to Sydney, I had this exact dish at North Bondi Italian Food. It was so good, so simple and so memorable, I decided to try to replicate it myself. This dish takes no time at all and you know what? Mine turned out better than the one I had at the restaurant. Pity my dining room doesn't look out over Bondi Beach though.

Orecchiette 320g
Cherry tomatoes 350g
Garlic clove 1
Parmesan 50g
Basil leaves 3tbs
Ex. V. olive oil 1tbs
Ricotta 200g

1. Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the juice and seeds. Peel and chop the garlic finely. Grate the Parmesan. Wash the basil.
2. Combine the tomatoes and garlic, season, add the oil and toss to combine. Let marinate for 15 minutes. Put the ricotta in a bowl, season and stir.
3. Cook the orecchiette in boiling salted water until al dente, then drain.
4. Gently heat the tomato mixture and add the drained orechiette, stirring gently to combine. Finally stir in the ricotta.

Serve with Parmesan.

Zucchini Carbonara

While I'm on the Jamie Oliver vibe, here's another one from his latest book. I actually started making a very similar recipe to this one over 10 years ago, simply because, as much as I love Carbonara sauces, there's not much goodness in there for you and too be honest with all that Bacon, Egg Yolk and Cream, it can be quite fatty. So, instead of just using Zucchini, like Jamie has below, I also like to add some Squash in there (not the pumpkin kind) and maybe even some Yellow Capsicum. The secret to making this dish great, is using some really good free range eggs and bacon. You'll find that you can get free range bacon at your supermarkets now like Coles and Safeway, in the fridge section- a good one is made by KR. Remember, it's just as important to buy free range bacon and pork products as it is eggs and chicken!

Serves 4


  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 medium green and yellow courgettes
  • 500g penne
  • 4 large free-range or organic egg yolks
  • 100ml double cream
  • 2 good handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • 12 thick slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon, cut into chunky lardons
  • a small bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped, flowers reserved (if you can get hold of flowering thyme)

1. Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Halve and then quarter any larger courgettes lengthways. Cut out and discard any fluffy middle bits, and slice the courgettes at an angle into pieces roughly the same size and shape as the penne. Smaller courgettes can simply be sliced finely. Your water will now be boiling, so add the penne to the pan and cook according to the packet instructions.

2. To make your creamy carbonara sauce, put the egg yolks into a bowl, add the cream and half the Parmesan, and mix together with a fork. Season lightly and put to one side.

3. Heat a very large frying pan (a 35cm one is a good start – every house should have one!), add a good splash of olive oil and fry the pancetta or bacon until dark brown and crisp. Add the courgette slices and 2 big pinches of black pepper, not just to season but to give it a bit of a kick. Sprinkle in the thyme leaves, give everything a stir, so the courgettes become coated with all the lovely bacon-flavoured oil, and fry until they start to turn lightly golden and have softened slightly.

4. It’s very important to get this next bit right or your carbonara could end up ruined. You need to work quickly. When the pasta is cooked, drain it, reserving a little of the cooking water. Immediately, toss the pasta in the pan with the courgettes, bacon and lovely flavours, then remove from the heat and add a ladleful of the reserved cooking water and your creamy sauce. Stir together quickly. (No more cooking now, otherwise you’ll scramble the eggs.)

5. Get everyone around the table, ready to eat straight away. While you’re tossing the pasta and sauce, sprinkle in the rest of the Parmesan and a little more of the cooking water if needed, to give you a silky and shiny sauce. Taste quickly for seasoning. If you’ve managed to get any courgette flowers, tear them over the top, then serve and eat immediately, as the sauce can become thick and stodgy if left too long.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Tray baked Meringue with Pears, Cream, Toasted Hazelnuts and Chocolate

This is from Jamie Oliver's latest book, Jamie at Home. I'm not going to write much here, I think the pictures pretty much speak for themselves. Let me tell you though, this Chocolate and Pear Syrup is the best stuff ever! Look at the oozing chocolate sauce - yum!
You could probably feed about 8 people with this Meringue. For a family of four, you could probably halve the recipe, you might need to adjust the cooking times though.

4 large free-range or organic egg whites
1 1/4 cups raw sugar
Pinch sea salt
100 grams hazelnuts, skins removed
2 400g cans halved pears, in syrup
2 pieces stem ginger, thinly sliced, optional
200g dark chocolate (minimum 70 percent cocoa solids)
400ml double cream
50g icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped out
1 orange, zested

Preheat your oven to 150c and line a baking sheet with a sheet of waxed paper.
Put your egg whites into a squeaky clean bowl, making sure there are absolutely no little pieces of egg shell or egg yolk in them. Whisk on medium until the whites form firm peaks. With your mixer still running, gradually add the sugar and the pinch of salt. Turn the mixer up to the highest setting and whisk for about 7 or 8 minutes, until the meringue mixture is white and glossy. To test whether it's done you can pinch some between your fingers - if it feels completely smooth it's ready; if it's slightly granular it needs a little more whisking.

Dot each corner of the waxed paper with a blob of meringue, then turn it over and stick it to the baking sheet. Spoon the meringue out onto the paper. Using the back of a spoon, shape and swirl it into a rectangle. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 1 hour or until crisp on the outside and a little soft and sticky inside. At the same time, bake the hazelnuts on a separate sheet in the oven for 1 hour or until golden brown.

Drain the cans of pears, reserving the syrup from 1 can. Cut each pear half into 3 slices. Pour the pear syrup into a saucepan with the ginger, if using, and warm gently over a medium heat until it starts to simmer. Take off the heat and snap the chocolate into the saucepan, stirring with a spoon until it's all melted.

Take the meringue and hazelnuts out of the oven and leave to cool. Place the meringue on a nice rustic board or platter. Whip the cream with the sifted icing sugar and the vanilla seeds until it forms smooth, soft peaks. Smash the toasted hazelnuts (in a kitchen towel) and sprinkle half of them over the top of the meringue. Spoon half the whipped cream over the top and drizzle with some of the chocolate sauce (if the sauce has firmed up, melt it slightly by holding the saucepan over a large pan of boiling water). Divide most of the pear pieces evenly over the top. Pile over the rest of the whipped cream and pears. Drizzle with some more chocolate sauce, then sprinkle over the remaining toasted hazelnuts with some grated orange zest. Serve straightaway. If you're making this in advance, get everything ready and assemble at the last minute.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


74 Bourke St, Melbourne Phone 03 9654 2252

Unfortunately, I never seem to make it to very many Food and Wine Festival events. However, I always make sure that I take advantage of the Express Lunches, that many of Victoria's great restaurant's offer during the festival period. The Express Lunches basically give you a choice from a limited menu of two courses and a glass of local wine for $30. Not bad, considering some of the restaurants involved usually sell a main course for $35+.
Bottega is located between two of this ciy's most well known Italian eateries, one being Pellegrini's and the other being Grossi Florentino - so as you would expect, Bottega has a lot to live up to.
Now, I know that the whole idea is an 'Express' Lunch, but the service at Bottega seemed very rushed and un-personable. I don't know if it simply was because we had ordered from the 'cheapy' menu, or if the service here is generally lacking friendliness.
The food however was exceptional, however the portions were quite small. Again, probably due to us ordering from the Express menu. I hate spending $30 on a lunch and leaving the place wanting to grab a sandwich.

I started with the Carpaccio of house cured duck breast, with fresh figs, goat's cheese and vincotto. This was the first time I'd ever had Cured duck breast. It was delicious. It was like mini strips of prosciutto, but less salty and not quite as chewy. The breast was perfectly matched with the wonderful fresh figs and soft tangy goats cheese.

Mains was Western Plains Pork Rotolo with Sage and Burnt Butter. The pasta was slightly dry on top, not sure if this was because it was grilled under a salamander grill or left under the pass lights for too long. Apart from that, the dish was so tasty! The pork was cooked down until it was completely tender. The pasta was also lovely, smooth and not chewy.
My friend had a dessert instead of an entree, which was the Cannolli of ricotta, hazlenuts and chocolate candied orange with bitter chocolate ice-cream. Considering that the plate was cleaned in a couple of minutes, I assume it tasted pretty good!

An Express Lunch is the perfect way for people to check out a restaurant, which they may not usually go to. If they like it, they'll tell their friends and come back. Not bad advertising, however, if it's no good- you're shooting yourself in the foot. I myself loved the food and was very impressed, but the service, while it was not rude wasn't particularly friendly. Italians are known for their love of food and welcoming people into their homes to share food. Unfortunately, we didn't feel completely welcome here - but like I said, the food was great!