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Australian Conservation Society conducted a sustainable seafood assessment project over the 2009-10 summer.  One of the five studies was the assessment of squid from the Hawkesbury River. My local river is the Richmond, not too much further north and fished in the same way, so I was really happy to see that squid was listed as sustainable.

In fact most sources list squid as sustainable – they breed fast, die young, and may even be over-filling their niche, sadly because their predators are being fished to extinction.  They’re a good source of omega 3, better even than canned tuna and a lot more sustainable.

The Recipe:

This recipe used 8 medium-smallish whole squid – 500 grams all up with their heads and tentacles on. This amount fed four of us for a dinner party, with a couple of side salads. It would also make a fine entreè for eight.  Beware of using squid that are too small as they are hard to stuff without tearing.

First you need to clean and process the squid.  This is easier than it sounds in instructions!

You will find that if you pull the tentacles firmly, the head and tentacles will separate from the tube.

To process the head bit, cut below the eyes and discard the head and the guts.  Push the beak out from between the tentacles and discard it.  Put the tentacles aside for mincing.

To process the tube bit, being careful not to make holes in it, feel for and remove the quill (the see-through plastic-like feather inside the tube). Wash inside well to remove any remaining gut.

Stuffing:

Mince the tentacles in a food processor or by chopping finely.

Mix with

  • one-third of a cup uncooked rice
  • one onion finely diced
  • lots of garlic
  • a chili, finely diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh herbs – I used oregano and lemon thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • a finger lime squeezed out, or a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice

Fill the tubes with the stuffing.  Don’t overfill (the rice will expand in cooking), and close the tops with a skewer.

Sauce:

Saute a finely diced onion in a little olive oil.

Ad lots of finely chopped garlic, then:

  • a jar of tomato passata
  • 1 cup of water
  • a good swig of white wine if you have it
  • juice of ½ a lemon

Cook the sauce down for a few minutes to soften the tomatoes.

Put a little olive oil in the bottom of a heavy pot with a  lid and arrange the filled tubes in it.  Pour over the sauce.  Bake, covered for 1 ½ hrs, or simmer over a very low heat on the stovetop, watching at the end that it doesn’t boil dry. Add a little more water, or take the lid off to allow it to reduce, so that the sauce is nice and thick.

Slice the squid into decorative slices and serve on a bed of the sauce.

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This was an accidental discovery. I had some friends coming for lunch and I had baked ricotta with salad in my mind.  But I’d forgotten that I’d used the ricotta.  Oops.

Lots of other lunch options of course, but you know when you have your mind set on something? I had some home-made Greek yoghurt in the fridge, and I thought perhaps I could make ricotta by lunch time?

Nope. I put 2 cups of the yoghurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.  Two hours later I had something like labneh and it just seemed like that might work instead.

It was a lucky discovery – very easy and very delicious.

The Recipe:

Serves four for lunch.

This is quick and easy, but you need to start several hours ahead of time.

Mix

  • three cups of Greek yoghurt
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 3 teaspoons of grated lemon rind
  • juice of a large-ish lemon (150 ml)

Pour into a colander lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.  In this cool weather you can just cover with a cloth and leave it on the bench to drain – the yoghurt culture will protect it from any bad bugs. If it is hot find room for it in the fridge.

After a couple of hours, the bowl should have about a cup and a half of clear liquid and the cheesecloth about a cup and a half of thick, creamy spreadable curds.

Tip it into a bowl and mix in:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cups of finely chopped fresh herbs.  I used spring onion greens, lemon thyme, basil, parsley, mint and nasturtium leaves.

Oil a tray of small muffin tins and spoon the mixure into the cups.  You should have enough for 8 small cups.

Bake in a medium oven for around 30 minutes until set and the top is golden.

Serve with a good sourdough bread toasted to spread it on and a green salad on the side.

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I saw an episode of Jamie Oliver’s American Food Revolution, where they were teaching people to cook corn on the cob with chili and lime.  The flavour combination inspired these.  They work really well.

Sweet corn and lime basil are both in season in my garden and I’m just starting to pick the first of the limes. If you don’t have lime basil, it’s a different recipe but it works with coriander.

What’s The Breakfast Challenge? A weekly fast, easy, healthy, ethical, in season recipe to challenge the big boxes of mostly air.

The Recipe:

Strip the kernels from 3 cobs of corn.

In the food processor, blend them with

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 dessertspoons of wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 chili (seeds removed)
  • a good handful of lime basil leaves
  • salt and black pepper

Blend for a minute until the chili is chopped quite fine through the mix.

Fry spoonfuls of mixture in a little olive oil until they are golden and set.

Eat hot straight from the pan with a squeeze of lime juice.

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Capsicums and chilis are right in season now and I’m harvesting both.  These ones are a banana pepper, and they’re either a very mild, sweet chili or a  capsicum with a bit of spiciness, depending on how you look at it.  They’re slightly laborious to stuff – the larger more common bell peppers would be easier – but for chili lovers the edge of spiciness is so worth it!

And kangaroo mince stuffing marries so well with that capsicum spiciness.  Those of you who have visited before will know my thoughts about kangaroo as the red meat of choice for Australians. Kangaroo mince in particular is lean, healthy, ethical, cheap, and lends itself to recipes where there are enough other flavours going on to distract people who are new to it.

The Recipe:

This recipe makes a dozen of these banana peppers, and three is a good sized serving with vegetables or salad, so it makes a main dish for four for just a couple of dollars.

You need a baking dish with a nice tight fitting lid.  I have an ovenproof pyrex casserole dish that is perfect. You could cover with aluminium foil, but I avoid foil – it’s one of those thoughtless trash products that need to be much, much more expensive to reflect their true cost.  Aluminium uses a huge amount of energy to produce (and thus contributes a huge amount of carbon).  You can argue that in cars this is offset by light weight, and in cans it is offset by recycling, but in foil it is hard to argue that is it worth it for something of such fleeting value.   And, I don’t care if there’s no definitive evidence that aluminium and Alzheimers are not just co-incidentally associated, I don’t like it.  And, apart from anything else, aluminium reacts with acidic foods to create aluminium salts might be harmless but taint the dish. Yuk.

So, first step, find a good oven dish and turn the oven on to heat up.

In a heavy pan, sauté

  • 300 gm kangaroo mince
  • 1 large onion diced fine
  • several cloves of garlic chopped

When the kanagaroo is browned, add

  • 300 gm chopped tomatoes (about 4 good sized tomatoes)
  • 2 dessertspoons of currants
  • 3 dessertspoons bulghur or couscous
  • half a cup of water

Simmer for a few minutes until the water has been absorbed. Turn it off and stir in

  • about ¼ cup (packed) of chopped fresh mint

While the stuffing is simmering, prepare the peppers. Chop the tops off and swivel a knife blade around inside them to loosen the seeds.  Wash the seeds out under running water (a butter knife is a good implement).

Stuff the peppers full of stuffing.  The fat end of a chopstick is a good implement for pushing it down to the tips.

Arrange the stuffed peppers in your baking dish.  Pour over ¼ cup of water and cover with sliced tomato.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Put the lid on and bake for around 40 minutes in a medium oven, until the peppers are tender.

I served these with braised snake beans and potato.

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Bream is not one of my favourite fish, but it’s one of the easier ones to catch, and Lewie likes fishing. Bream are a good source of omega 3 and listed as sustainable, so it’s very unfortunate that they’re a bit bland and soft for my taste.  I could never get appropriately excited about the catch until I discovered just how easy Thai Fish Cakes are to make – easy enough to knock up after a day at the beach and good enough for me to properly praise the fisherman!

The Recipe:

It’s a good idea to make the dipping sauce first, because like many Asian dishes, this comes together really fast.

Cucumber Dipping Sauce

In a small pan, dry roast 2 dessertspoons of chopped macadamias or (more traditionally) peanuts.

In a small saucepan bring to the boil:

  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 3 dessertspoons sugar
  • chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • the 2 dessertspoons of roasted chopped macadamias.

Cook for a few minutes, then take the pot off and put it in the sink with some water to cool down.

Deseed and finely dice about 3 dessertspoons of cucumber. When the vinegar is cool, stir in the cucumber.

While it is cooling, you can be making the fish cakes

Fish Cakes

This can all be done in a food processor.  Mine will do it all in one go, but you may like to do it in two batches the first time just to test your  food processor. It makes about 20 cakes.

First batch:

  • 350 grams of fish fillets with no bones (Use the skeleton for stock for Lao Style Fragrant Fish Soup, and you won’t resent wasteful filleting)
  • 1 chili minus seeds
  • 3 dessertspoons fish sauce
  • 3 dessertspoons lime cordial (or 3 teaspoons lime juice and 3 teaspoons brown sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • small knob of ginger and/or galangal

You can also add the white part of a stem of lemon grass or a couple of kaffir lime leaves if you have them and you like a strong citrus flavour (but go easy – it can be overpowering).

Blend this lot into a smooth paste.

Second batch:

I can just change the blade in my food processor for a grater and carry on into the same bowl.  But you may want to empty the fish paste into a bowl to check the texture your food processor delivers the first time you do this. You want this second batch to be very finely chopped or grated rather than a paste.

  • 2 small or 1 large spring onion
  • half a dozen snake beans
  • 1/3 cup packed coriander and/or Thai basil

Mix the two batches together.

Thai fish cakes are small – take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and drop it on a plate of flour. Sprinkle flour on top and you will be able to pat the cake into a small, flat patty.

Heat a little oil in a pan – I use olive oil although it is not very traditional, just because I use it for almost all cooking. Fry the cakes in hot oil for just two minutes or so on each side until golden and puffed up.

Serve hot straight out of the pan with the dipping sauce.

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My mowing meditation this morning – I was thinking about the basil and macadamia pesto post and how much basil we have harvested this summer.  Pesto on toast for breakfast and on sandwiches and wraps for lunch,  pesto pasto, pesto pizza sauce, basil in polenta and moussaka and fish cakes and quiches, gorgeous tomato and basil and bocconchini salads.  I think if I had had just one pot to garden this summer, I would have planted it in early Spring with a sweet basil bush – the one indispensable ingredient at the bottom of a whole season of healthy eating.

Which of course led me to thinking, if I had just one pot to plant now, what would I be planting in it?  After an hour of mowing, I settled on flat leaf parsley.  It is the thing I think would be most difficult to buy, that I would use daily if I had it sitting on the step or the windowsill in a pot, and that I would most miss if I didn’t have it. Tabbouleh and green salad, omelette and quiche, kangaroo stroganoff and tagine, maidanosalata sauce for fritters and patties, fish cakes, winter soups and stews and casseroles.

I would choose a deep pot,  preferably a ceramic one – parsley has a single deep tap root and it doesn’t like too hot a soil.  I would fill it with a mixture of compost and creek sand and feed it every couple of weeks with worm pee tea. Leafy greens like a high nitrogen diet but parsley needs very good drainage.  I would put it in a sunny spot and be careful not to overwater – it will cope with drying out better than waterlogging.

Which then led me to thinking, the hardest part would be getting the one seedling.  Buy a whole packet of seed? Find flatleaf parsley seedlings (hard) and ditch most of the punnet? Maybe I should start a random act of kindness parsley in a pot giveaway.

So, fellow gardening bloggers – if you had just one pot to garden, what would you plant now?

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basil and macadamia pesto

We are harvesting the first macadamias of the season, and by the look of our trees it will be a good year. And the basil is going off in my garden. Traditional cuisines are all built on things that are in season together, but I wonder if that is all there is to it. It’s amazing how often things that taste good together are in season together. I wonder if there is some law of nature, sort of like the Golden Ratio is to design?

With macas and basil both on my kitchen bench, it had to be pesto. This tub cost just a few cents for the parmesan and the olive oil. We had it on a pizza topped with roasted pumpkin, capsicum, olives and bocconchini.

The Recipe

Super simple.

I like to lightly roast the macadamias in a dry pan first. Roughly chop and roast for just a few minutes, shaking the pan so they roast evenly.

Blend together:

  • 1/3 cup roasted macadamias
  • 2 cups loosely packed of basil leaves
  • 30 grams of grated parmesan
  • 1 or more cloves of garlic
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup of good olive oil or macadamia oil
  • if you like it a bit spicy, half a chili

Taste and add more salt if it needs it. Best if it sits for an hour or two to mellow, if you can wait that long!

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After floods followed by heat wave, my garden has practically no leafy greens in it.  The parsley and celery keeled over in the wet – they hate waterlogged roots and although my drainage is pretty good, it wasn’t up to 150mm of rain in a day.  The lettuces and rocket keeled over in the heat wave, not up to several days in a row over 40º.

But that’s ok.  Summer salads need more crunch and cool than leaf-based salads anyway. This is one of my favourite summer salads, great with anything on a barbeque.

The Recipe:

I like snake beans best for this salad, but french beans work too.  Blanch beans by cooking for just a couple of minutes in boiling water, then cooling straight away in cold water, so they are still crunchy.

Beans are the stars and it is best not to over-elaborate: some diced cucumber and sliced capsicum and red onion go well,  but leave out tomatoes or leafy greens.

Toss through the dressing and it’s done.

Dressing:

1 dessertspoon olive oil
1 dessertspoon  lime cordial
1 dessertspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
few drops sesame oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs – mint, vietnamese mint and culantro or coriander are my first choices, but you could also include lemon, lime or Thai basil.

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Beans are like octopus – they need to be cooked either very fast or very slow.

I love snake beans cooked in an Asian way – just barely blanched, so they are still crunchy and tossed in a dressing.  But these purple king beans have such a nice deep flavour, I think they go better cooked long and slow in the Mediterranean way, specially this time of year when not only the beans but all the other ingredients are in season too.

We ate these just as is for Saturday lunch with toast and feta cheese on the side.  But they also go fabulously well as a side dish for a roast (and take a similar amount of time to cook).

The Recipe:

In a heavy bottomed pot with a lid, simmer together on a low heat for an hour or more:

  • 400 grams of green beans, preferably a strong flavoured variety like Purple King
  • a swig of good olive oil
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • a leek, chopped into 3 cm slices
  • 12 black olives, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • a good tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano
  • 700 grams of chopped ripe tomatoes (or a can of tomatoes)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups of water

Towards the end watch the liquid level and add more water if it looks like it might burn.

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