Friday, 29 November 2013

Italian Stuffed Tomatoes

I had friends over for dinner the other night and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to whip out my new cook book, Antonio Carluccio's Italia - The recipes and customs of the regions, and try some new recipes!

Antonio Carluccio takes you on a gastronomic tour through Italy discussing the traditions and recipes found in its various regions. Each chapter delves into a region discussing its history, culinary traditions and specialities as well as Antonio's personal experiences with the area.

With the beautiful spring weather we have been having (apart from today! Where did all that rain come from?!) I wanted to make an entree that was fresh and light, this recipe for Pomodori Farciti al Forno or Stuffed baked tomatoes, really stood out.

What I love about Italian cooking is the depth of flavour created from such simple ideas and straight forward, uncomplicated ingredients. This recipe is no exception.

Pomodori Farciti al Forno is a traditional dish from the Lazio region, the land of the Romans. An area where the cooking is generally simple, honest and true to the season. The volcanic soil of Lazio is said to produce some of the biggest and most beautiful vegetables in Italy and is particularly known for its artichoke.

My soundtrack today was Symphony No. 7 by Beethoven. This weekend I start rehearsals with the Perth Chamber Orchestra for our upcoming Beer Beethoven and Bratworst - I can't wait to play this wonderful piece of music again with such a fantastic ensemble. If you are in Perth and free on the 10th of December I highly recommend joining us.

Anyway - to the recipe!

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Cut the tops off 4 large tomatoes and place the lids to the side. Scoop out the inside of the tomatoes and strain the juice into a bowl.

Cook 50g of arborio or risotto rice in salted water for roughly 7 minutes before draining and setting aside to cool. Once cooled mix with the tomato juice, 2 tablespoons of coarsely chopped mint, 8 finely chopped anchovy fillets, 1 clove of garlic finely chopped and a good glug of olive oil (2 - 4 tablespoons). Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the stuffing into the tomato cavities and put the lids back on. Place the tomatoes on a baking tray and bake for around 20mins or until the skins have wrinkled up and the tomatoes are soft.
Serve hot as an entree, side or simply an addition to the table.

And there you have it - Just 7 ingredients for a light dish full of flavour, perfect for the sunshine.

4 large ripe tomatoes
50g risotto rice
2tbsp coarsely choped mint
8 anchovy fillets, finely chopped
4tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Monday, 18 November 2013

Milan - A Snap Shot

Today I thought I would take the opportunity to show you some of my favourite images of Milan.
A city that has 26 centuries of history yet, in many eyes, represents the 'new' Italy. With its shiny shop facades and designer labels splattered through the centre of town, this city is the countries main industrial, commercial and financial centre. 

A dear friend of mine moved to Milan last year to pursue her studies. Since then I have now visited Milan twice. The first time to help her set up and become comfortable in this new daunting city, and the second this August simply to say hi. 

My journeys to Milan haven't be without hiccups, but I am pleased to have made them and to have had the opportunity to experience the city of fashion, design, finance, football and opera. 

To be honest, Milan isn't any where near my favourite places in the world. On the surface I feel somewhat uninspired by the city. I find it very industrial and feel that its fast pace of life creates distance from the locals making it difficult to feel comfortable or at home. In many ways it simply doesn't have the shimmer that I long for when dreaming about Italy. 

The flavour and beauty of Italy, however, is still present you just have to search a little harder. 

With a gelato in hand, you must walk off the tourist rout to the lesser known streets and discover boutiques, important art galleries and the smaller churches. 

Besides, the grander of the Duomo (5th largest cathedral in the world with no less than 3159 statues!) the exquisite La Scala, castles and Da Vinci paintings and architecture dotted around the place there are exquisite sights in Milan that are well worth the visit.  

What are your travel stories of Milan?

Hope you have had a lovely weekend!!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Roast Pumpkin And Couscous Salad

Gosh what a couple of weeks! I can't believe how varied my work has been recently - I love it! 
I went from performing 70s rock with Spandau Ballet's Tony Hadley, to performing stunning works by Vivaldi and Piazzolla with the Perth Chamber Orchestra. Followed by Pop scores with Perth Symphony String section, Beethoven's 9th Symphony as part of a flash-mob with Perth Symphony Orchestra as well as multiple weddings let alone the personal recital preparation and rehearsing the exquisite Borodin String Quartet No. 2 and Eine Kleine Nacht Music for an up and coming Mill Point Quartet concert! I am exhausted just thinking about the past 2 weeks! 

Amongst all of this I still found the time to join friends for a wonderful night of live scores to Buster Keaton silent movies with Viola Dana under the stars at the Fremantle Prison. 
This was also the perfect excuse to make up a large bowl of this deliciousness - My all time favourite Roast Pumpkin and couscous salad. 

Not just a great picnic accompaniment but also a great dish to just have in your fridge for those busy weeks. It is great as a side for something like herb and pepper crusted chicken, or simply to grab a fork and dive right in!


I may be slightly obsessed with roast pumpkin at the moment... It is such a great accompaniment to so many things and this is no exception. This is a basic recipe but feel free to change, add or adjust as you wish depending on the ingredients you like. 

Dice up a large portion of roast pumpkin, drizzle with olive oil and lightly season with salt and pepper before placing in a hot oven for about 20mins or until soft. 

In a saucepan bring 2 cups of water, a knob of butter, a teaspoon of rosemary, thyme and about a teaspoon of paprika to the boil. Once boiling add 2 coups of couscous, remove from heat and leave covered for 30 mins. 

In the mean time prepare all of your other ingredients. I like to use roughly 1 cup of diced feta, 1 cup of sun-dried tomatoes and 1/2 cup of black olives (can stay whole if you prefer) and a good handful or two of baby spinach.

After half an hour has gone, fluff up your couscous with a fork before mixing together all of your ingredients with a large bowl. Before serving, dress with a the juice of half a lemon or lime, salt and pepper and a good drizzle of good olive oil. 

And that is it! Such a delicious salad - full of flavour, great for any table, anytime of day! 

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Cooking My Way Through Paris

Ah Paris... The city the world dreams about. Inspiring writers, artists and musicians for centuries. 
Paris is a city that wants to tell a story, a story the entire world is eager to hear. 

One can witness its twinkling lights, stroll along the Seine, shop the Champs Elise, explore the iconic architecture, take in exquisite art and only scratch the surface of what Paris really is. 

"A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty and in the point of life"
-Thomas Jefferson 

My adventures of 2012 led me to Paris. However, unlike many, I didn't go there for the art, fashion or for love, instead I went to Paris to cook. 

For an entire week I had the luxury of waking up to a breakfast of fresh croissants before taking the walk through Momartre towards Rue Baudelique and my second home for the week, Cook'n With Class, a boutique cooking school where I began my journey into the art of French cooking.

Cook'n With Class is a boutique cooking school based in Momartre offering a large range of high quality French cooking classes in the warmest most relaxed atmosphere. Don't worry, all the classes are taught in English, and are incredibly hands-on. 

As I went to Paris pretty much specifically to cook, I decided to par take in A Week In Paris - A package deal of 5 cooking classes. The classes I chose were the Evening Market Class, French Deserts, French Baking, Macaroon, and a Molecular Gastronomy class. 

As I wasn't writing a blog at the time, I unfortunately don't have many photos of the classes themselves, but I will do my best to show you a little of my time at the school, and my time Paris. (like many, my gallery contains possibly too many photos of the Eiffel Tower...Forgive me - I just couldn't help myself! I am a tourist like everyone else after all!) 

The Evening Market Class was my first. Our chef for the evening was Alex Dreyer. Alex was actually my chef for almost the entire week. Extremely funny, kind and informative in his teaching methods, Alex always made it a lot of fun! (It was also really lovely to have the consistency of teacher, as it meant that every day I got to walk in to a familiar face! I also got to learn the system of how the school, and Alex personally worked meaning I could get the most of my week there.)
For the class, myself and 3 other women were taken on a tour of the nearby market and stalls, learning the ins and outs of purchasing fresh produce in France. We were flooded with tips on purchasing meats, seafood, in-season vegetables and cheese. The menu is then created based on what you find on your tour. The rest of the evening is spent cooking and devouring the most delicious food with lots of chatter and wine. For those interested we made crispy sea-bass followed by veal farci served with pommes anna and season vegetables before a peach tart and a platter of fresh cheeses. 

I have done a couple of cooking classes elsewhere in the world, and Cook'n With Class stands out by far. What I loved about it most is that you will never find more than five students in your class making it incredibly hands on.

Next, I participated in a French Deserts Class producing passionfruit creme brulee, lemon tart, a flour-less chocolate souffle, madeleines, a strawberry tart, and a delicious red current sorbet. 

Molecular gastronomy delved into the weird and wonderful world of combining science and cooking. On the nights menu were sidecar cocktails, mushroom veloute, pea and carrot ravioli (were the carrot was used to create the "pasta"), re-constructed poached egg, herb crusted pork, and chocolate mousse with mint caviar. I know a lot of these recipes don't sound like much in the way of science, and I so wish I took more photos and could remember enough to explain everything we did! But you probably wouldn't believe me anyway ;) This is more to give you an example of the range of dishes one can learn at the school.

The Macaroon class is fairly self explanatory. If you are wanting to delve into the delicious world of macaroons I highly recommend attending a class of some form. They are extremely fussy and require many things to be "just-so". I am currently experimenting with the recipe at home, and still haven't been able to quite get it right with my oven. I think it will just take more practice! Thankfully I have enough people around me willing to help with the trial and error process.

French baking is also fairly self explanatory. It is a class where you learn the art of making pastry for the most delicious croissants, pain et chocolate, apple strudel, and sultana scrolls. This is also a class I highly recommend as the pastry is rather fiddly, and there are so many little handy tricks to be learnt when you actually are able to talk to someone about them. 

I had such a incredible week in Paris. One I will never forget, and would do again in a heartbeat!!! The classes are perfectly balanced with participation and observation. You get to eat all of the food you cook, and often take some samples back to your hotel room (my hosts were very pleased with me walking in each day with a box of treats to share)

After the lessons you are sent all of the recipes to add to your recipe book. I have loved coming back and trying them all out in my own kitchen so much so that you may find a couple pop up in the not so distant future. It is also a wonderful way to meet new lovely people from around the world, something I am all about.  

The staff are incredibly helpful and so kind. You can ask them anything and if need be they will answer any of your questions by email outside of the classes when and where they can. Oh and there is some form of alcohol involved in every lesson which is always a bonus! There is always time to celebrate with a glass of bubbles in Paris! 

I always know an experience has affected me if I continue to talk about it well after the event took place - My time cooking in Paris was over a year ago, and I am still talking about it endlessly!!! If and when I return to Paris I will definitely be adding a trip to the Cook'n With Class school! 

I can not recommend it enough. If you are in Paris, or thinking of visiting soon do yourself a favour and look them up. You can find their website here. Take your time to explore all of their class options so that you can find one that is just right for you. 

I am sitting here listening to the soundtrack of the beautiful Amelie, dreaming about jumping on a plane taking me right back to my last time in Paris. 

Do you have a love affair with Paris?