Roasted Asparagus Rolled in Pesto.

This is a wonderful and extremely easy way to do something different with asparagus. The pesto adds a slight crispy crust to the asparagus (as well as a yummy pesto flavour of course).

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Roll the asparagus in pesto. Put in a roasting dish with a little oil and cook at around 200 C for 5 to 10 minutes.

I like to use it as an addition to my Big Breakfast style Vegetable Hash Stack

Basil Pesto

With my recent posts about pizza and calzone I thought now would be a good time to recommend my favourite brand of basil pesto. I sampled *quite a few* before trying Genoese.

I knew it was a good mix the first time I opened it and smelt it. It smells so good, I went around work encouraging people to sniff it. It didn’t occur to me that that might be slightly odd till after. The taste doesn’t disappoint.

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If you have favourite brands for sauces, pestos, mustards etc please let me know and I’ll try them out. I’m particularly after a good provider of sour gherkins (sugar not in the top of the ingredient list! Grr!)

Calzone

This calzone was the second course for a dinner we hosted last week. Thomas had a day off work so he did all the cooking!

The calzone was made and assembled before-hand so all we had to do was pop it in the oven, which meant no running in and out of the kitchen and more time to sit and talk with friends (and drink wine!).

The bread was golden and crusty and the filling had a lovely tart taste due to a combination of olives and feta.

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Dough

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 tsps active yeast
  • 4 cups ‘strong’ bread flour
  • 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • extra flour (for kneading)
  • extra olive oil

Prove the yeast by putting the warm water into a small bowl, dissolving the sugar into it and then adding the yeast. Leave in a warm place and the yeast should start bubbling and frothing within 5-10 minutes. If not – you need to start again with better yeast.

Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the olive oil and the yeast/water mixture. Mix to combine into a dough. Remove the dough and knead for five minutes on a flat, floured surface.

Put a dribble of olive oil into the bowl and coat the bottom and sides with it. Put in the kneaded ball of dough and move it around so it too has a fine coating of olive oil. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and leave in a warm place. It should rise to 2-3 times the size in an hour or two.

Optional – knead the dough again and then let it rise again.

Briefly reknead the dough and then divide into two. Roll/spin/press the first half into a flat sheet. Either flour or oil the tray/pizza-stone you’re going to cook it on and put the dough on it. Then it’s time to start adding ingredients.

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Filling Ingredients (adjust to taste)

  • 2 tbsp basil pesto
  • 1 head broccoli – chopped into small florets
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, chopped
  • 100gms feta, crumbled
  • 20 kalamata olives, pitted and cut into two
  • 150gm roasted capsicum, chopped
  • 100gms mozzarella, grated
  • 50gms cheddar cheese, grated

Spread the pesto over the base. Add the rest of the ingredients in roughly the order given, finishing off with the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses on top.

Take the rest of the dough and roll/spin/press out into a second flat sheet and use it to cover the other one. It needs to go all the way to the sides so you can seal the calzone by pressing down on the edges.

Topping

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp rosemary and/or oregano (fresh is best, dried is ok)
  • salt
  • pepper

Coat the top with the olive oil. Sprinkle on the rosemary, oregano, salt and pepper.

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Make three 5-10cm diagonal cuts in the top of the calzone. This lets steam escape while it’s cooking.

Put into a hot oven (220c) until done – approximately 20-30 minutes. Cooking time is fairly imprecise as it’s going to depend on the size and composition of the calzone. Towards the end of the cooking time you may wish to remove the calzone and tip it slightly – any excess liquid should drain out – return to the oven to finish.

Let cool for a few minutes and then cut into long slices (it looks more dramatic that way) and serve. (serves 5)

Vegetarian Hash Stack

A vegetarian hash stack is a great Sunday brunch idea, especially when you’re trying to find the middle ground between fruit salad and a full on heart attack producing traditional big breakfast.

Hash Stack

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Ingredients (per person)

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Layer the ingredients, trail a line of pesto and aioli sauce across the stack. Serve with avocado pieces on the side.

Simple, Yum.

Enjoy, Kim.

Potato and Leek Pizza

Potato Pizza is a simple way of combining both major food groups into one delicious meal.

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In the past I’ve always had problems getting the potatoes just how I want them. Either they’re too leathery, or too hard and underdone, or … just not as good as they should be. Indeed, I would say that I generally have problems with frying things and it’s my worst cooking method (although I seem to have finally got the hang of frying eggs).

Tonight I decided to take a different approach and decided to roast/fry the potatoes in the oven – and it worked just great and the pizza was delicious. Here’s how I did it.

Potato and Leek Pizza
(serves 1-2 depending on desired belly fullness)

Ingredients
– One small pizza base (yes, I’m lazy, feel free to make your own)
– 2 tbsp basil pesto
– One large potato
– 1 sprig fresh rosemary, or 1-2 tsp dry rosemary (inferior, less classy, easier)
– Extra light olive oil, or other cooking oil
– One leek (or about four spring onions)
– 30gm grated mozzarella cheese
– 30gm grated cheddar cheese
– salt grinder

Method
1. Heat oven to 200c
2. Scrub the potato and cut into thin slices. Cut the slices in half if they’re too big.
3. Pour a little oil into a baking dish and make sure the bottom is covered.
4. Put in the potatoes, drizzle over the rest of the oil.
5. Sprinkle the rosemary over it.
6. Cook until half-done (5-10 minutes) and then turn. Complete cooking.

While waiting for the potatoes:

7. Spread the pesto on the pizza base
8. Chop the leeks. They can be small to large depending on your whim.
9. Nibble on some of the cheese (we call this “emergency cheese” as we’re normally pretty hungry by the time we start cooking).

And now the potatoes are done:

8. Put the potatoes in a single layer on the pizza. Eat the rest.
9. Arrange the leeks over the potatoes.
10. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese.
11. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese (yes, the order is important).
12. Put on a baking tray at the top of the oven, cook until golden and bubbly (5-10 minutes)
13. Grind some salt over it, cut it up and serve. Don’t be too hasty and burn the roof of your mouth.

Enjoy, Thomas.

Versatile Red Lentil Pasta Sauce

If you’re afraid of lentils but intrigued by them at the same time, then now might be the time to give cooking them a go.

Red lentils give this pasta sauce a nice thick, smooth taste. Best of all it’s extremely quick and simple to make.

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(Thanks to Healthy Food Magazine for the recipe).

Red Lentil Pasta Sauce

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • red lentils, 1 mug, uncooked
  • one onion
  • oil, 2 tablespoons
  • garlic, 2 cloves, chopped
  • tinned tomatoes, 2 x 400g tins, chopped
  • tomato paste, 2 tablespoons
  • sugar, 1 teaspoon
  • dried basil, 2 teaspoons – add more or less to your taste
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a large saucepan of water to boil. Pour in the lentils and stir to ensure they do not stick to the base of the saucepan. Boil the lentils for 8-10 minutes or until soft.

Heat the oil in a medium pan and saute the onion and garlic until soft.

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, and herbs. Stir in the lentils.

Season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer until flavours develop, around 15 minutes.