corsican pie with winter greens & ricotta

corsican pie with winter greens & ricotta | table twenty eight

Mum visited a good friend last week and came home with armfuls of freshly picked greens from her garden – rocket, kale and silverbeet (sporting leaves the size of small umbrellas).

Instead of defaulting to salad or steaming, I had a small burst of creative mojo and a desire to do something out of the ordinary with this abundance of winter greens, lovingly homegrown and as fresh as they come.

I turned to my cookbooks (rather sadly neglected for some time) in the hunt for a dish to pack in as many nutrient-dense leafy greens as possible (carnivores – stay with me here, I promise the story turns out well).

silverbeet | table twenty eight

It was hardly surprising that the recipe that eventually caught my eye comes from Yotam Ottolenghi, one of my favourite chefs and champion of moving vegetables from side plate to main event.

I’ve tailored his original recipe for Corsican pie with zucchini flowers to incorporate the vegetables I had on hand – silverbeet, rocket and the green stems of some leeks that required only the white part for another recipe.

Indeed these personal adaptations essentially capture the ‘spirit’ of the dish, as Ottolenghi recommends:

“You can use a wide range of wild, cultivated or supermarket greens in this recipe.  Consider nettles, beetroot tops, turnip tops, spinach or watercress in place of the chard.  The combination is up to you, so choose the ones you like most.  The zucchini flowers look wonderful but you can leave them out or substitute them with some long shaved strips of zucchini, if you prefer.  Brocciu, produced on the island of Corsica and considered a national food, is a fresh young white cheese made with goat’s or ewe’s milk… but the easier-to-find Italian ricotta can be used just as well instead.”

I’m providing my adjusted recipe here but you can find the original Ottolenghi recipe at this link.

corsican pie with winter greens & ricotta | table twenty eight

 silverbeet | table twenty eight

corsican pie with winter greens & ricotta

adapted from the recipe in ‘plenty more’ by yotam ottolenghi


2 green leek stems, finely sliced and rinsed thoroughly to remove any sand (substitute red or brown onion)

3 celery stalks and leaves, thinly sliced
8 large silverbeet (chard) leaves, white stalks discarded, leaves roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tbsp torn mint leaves
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
75 g feta, crumbled
50 g pecorino, finely grated (substitute parmesan)
15 g pine nuts, lightly toasted
grated zest of 1 lemon
350 g all-butter puff pastry
100 g brocciu cheese or ricotta
1 zucchini, shaved lengthwise into wide strips with a vegetable peeler
1 egg, lightly beaten
sea salt
black pepper


Place a large pan on medium heat and sauté the leeks, celery, silverbeet, garlic, mint and parsley in the olive oil.  Cook, stirring continuously, for 15 minutes or until the greens have wilted and the celery has softened completely.

Remove from the heat and stir through the feta, pecorino, pine nuts, lemon zest, a pinch of sea salt and a hearty grind of black pepper.  Leave aside to cool completely, as you don’t want to be putting warm pie filing on the pastry.

Preheat the oven to 220°C before preparing the pastry.

corsican pie with winter greens & ricotta | table twenty eight

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured work surface until 3 mm thick. Using a plate or similar as a guide, cut out a large circle, approximately 30 centimetres (12 inches) in diameter.

Note: I bought sheets of puff pastry but the sheets were smaller than 30 centimetres in width so I used my nifty cutting and pasting skills, turning two sheets into one.  If you choose to do the same, ensure that any joined pieces are fully sealed by gently – but firmly – flattening the overlapping seam with a rolling pin.

Place the circle of pastry on an oven tray lined with baking paper.  Spread the filling out on the pastry, leaving a 3 centimetre (1.2 inches) border all the way around.  Dot the filling with large chunks of brocciu or ricotta and layer the zucchini strips around border.

Fold the pastry border up around the sides of the filling and pinch the edges together firmly to form a secure, decorative lip over the edge of the tart.  Alternatively, you can press the gathered edge with a fork.

Brush the pastry with beaten egg and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Bake the tart for 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden and cooked on the base.

Remove from the oven and brush with a little olive oil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

 


rocket, pear & goat’s cheese salad with walnut dressing

rocket, pear & goat's cheese salad with walnut dressing | table twenty eight

For years I’ve cultivated a lush green menagerie of indoor plants but herbs and other edible essentials of the kitchen garden have eluded me.

As confided previously, I’ve successfully managed to murder every herb plant unlucky enough to cross paths with me (apart from one long-suffering chilli plant that continues clinging inexplicably to life, and some chives which were devoured over a two week period by Bailey).

Perhaps I’m being a bit harsh by suggesting I deliberately exterminated each specimen, as I really did try my best to care for them.  I consulted the gurus at my local Dawson’s garden centre, scrolled through Google and various Perth-specific gardening websites, as well as asking my green-thumb-endowed friends at work.

But it got to the point that I was positively embarrassed to return to Dawson’s to buy yet another batch of thyme, or sage, or fennel – for Christ sake, fennel grows in the barren sand next to the train line! – in order to replace the sad, desiccated remains in my plant crematorium.

I gave up, conceding that there just wasn’t enough direct sunlight reaching my ground floor apartment each day to keep a potted kitchen garden happy.

rocket seedlings | table twenty eight

And then earlier this year, growing conditions and my odds improved dramatically – I moved house.

I now live in a second floor apartment with an east-facing kitchen window that receives direct morning sun and a west-facing balcony that is bathed in light come the afternoon.

Thus I experimented with a few initial seedling pots, keeping them on the kitchen sill during the morning and then moving them out to the balcony at lunchtime.

So far I’ve achieved promising results – a healthy mint plant, now big enough to need re-potting; a large head of radicchio from which I’ve already reaped one harvest; and a bountiful crop of rocket (which has now received a severe haircut in preparation for a second harvest, fingers crossed)…

rocket seedlings | table twenty eight

rocket | table twenty eight

Homegrown rocket yields so much for flavour and pep than the bland supermarket offerings and pairs perfectly with tart goat’s cheese and the sweetness of, well, pears.

This delicious salad recipe was given to my mother by a friend and remains a firm favourite of ours.  Try to pick pears that are on the slightly unripe side, as they will still be sweet but marvellously crisp.

rocket, pear & goat's cheese salad with walnut dressing | table twetny eight

rocket, pear & goat’s cheese salad
with walnut dressing

 

2 handfuls fresh rocket, washed
1 handful baby spinach, washed
¾ cup walnuts, lightly toasted
2 beurre bosc pears
100g soft goat’s cheese
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

walnut dressing
½ cup walnuts
½ clove fresh garlic
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of 1 orange


Firstly, prepare the dressing by placing all dressing ingredients in a small blender or food processor and blend until you have a thick, even consistency.

Taste and adjust flavours if needed, then set aside whilst the salad in prepared.

Quarter the pears, removing the core and seeds, and cut into fine slices.  In a large bowl, gently toss the pear slices with the rocket, baby spinach, walnut pieces and lemon juice (the lemon juice will help prevent the pear slices from browning quickly).

Break the soft goat’s cheese into small chunks and dot over the top of the salad.

Drizzle over the walnut dressing and serve immediately.

rocket, pear & goat's cheese salad with walnut dressing | table twenty eight

 

 


weekend postcard | poppies

poppies | table twenty eight

poppies | table twenty eight

poppies | table twenty eight

poppies | table twenty eight

poppies | table twenty eight

poppies | table twenty eight

poppies | table twenty eight

poppies | table twenty eight

poppies | table twenty eight


south american wine night | with beef empanadas, take no. 2

south american wine night | table twenty eight

A couple of weeks ago my gorgeous friend Deneil asked me to help out with hosting a wine tasting night at her house for a group of like-minded vino enthusiasts.

Encompassing a South American theme, she not only wanted to provide an opportunity to taste an array of unusual wines but also serve accompanying canapés from this exotic continent, providing a full cultural experience.

Although asking a teetotaller to get on board for a wine tasting event seems a bit incongruous, I jumped at the chance to get involved in the foodie side of things and do some research on cuisines I really know very little about.

I may have stretched the theme slightly by including Mexico in my culinary contribution, but along with Deneil and Clare (the third amigo in our catering trio), we ultimately came up with eight South American canapé courses, including desert.

menu, south american wine night | table twenty eight

south american wine night | table twenty eight

beef empanadas, south american wine night | table twenty eight

The two dishes I prepared were mini soft tacos with frijoles refritos (refried black beans) and lime jalapeño slaw, and empanadas filled with pulled beef shin and pine nuts.

I used the recipe I’ve featured previously on this site from ‘My Abuela’s Table’ by Daniella Germain (click here for the link) but I had a markedly improved result this time, thanks to cooking the beef shin much longer and slower (total cooking time was about six hours).

I also finely shredded the beef at the end of the cooking process instead of breaking it down with a spoon and leaving small chunky pieces, which – in very my humble opinion – landed us empanadas of superior quality.

Served up with a bowl of hot sriracha sauce and sour cream, they went down a treat with our 16 guests.

Take a look at the other delicious food and wines on offer from the night…

making chimichurri & empanadas for south american wine night | table twenty eight

south american wine night | table twenty eight

 south american wine night | table twenty eight

south american wine night | table twenty eight


course no. 1 | spicy blue fin tuna ceviche

spicy blue fin tuna ceviche, south american wine night | table twenty eight

course no. 2 | peri peri chicken

peri peri chicken, south american wine night | table twenty eight

course no. 3 | beef shin empanadas

beef empanadas, south american wine night | table twenty eight

course no. 4 | chilean potato puffs

chilean potato puffs & grilled chorizo, south american wine night | table twenty eight

course no. 4 | grilled chorizo

chilean potato puffs & grilled chorizo, south american wine night | table twenty eight

course no. 5 | mini frijoles refritos tacos with lime & jalapeño slaw

frijoles refritos tacos with lime & jalapeño slaw,  south american wine night | table twenty eight

course no. 8 | salted caramel & dulce de leche pots

salted chocolate & dulce de leche pots, south american wine night | table twenty eight


slow braised beef cheeks with parmesan polenta

beef cheeks with parmesan polenta | table twenty eight

They say a change is as good as a holiday and for me that analogy is literal.

After three and a half years I’ve demobilised from the major capital LNG project on which I was working and am now exploring the green pastures of ‘self-funded long service leave’ (thanks to Mum for that phrase).

The feeling of total and uninhibited freedom to do what I want with life is uplifting, revitalizing…  I have no structured plans or carefully mapped schedule beyond this week for the first time in my adult life – and it’s wonderful.

beef cheeks with parmesan polenta | table twenty eight

I’m finally getting to read the backlog of books that have accumulated on my bedside table.  I’m picking up my camera almost every day at spontaneous intervals and capturing those small, pleasurable moments that often pass without thought; winter leaves carpeting the park across the road, light through the dewy morning window and Bailey, snoozing happily in a patch of sun or rolling around like a kitten on the balcony.  I’m spending time with friends and family, enjoying those occasions without any unconscious stress or anxiety about all the urgent tasks requiring completion during the next work day.

It’s quietly exquisite.  Anything I undertake during the next few months will be purely positive and for my own enjoyment.  Freedom is a much underrated status…

bailey | table twenty eight

And it also means I’m gradually cooking again.

You would have noticed the absence of my own culinary creations during the past six months, which can be put down to exhaustion, lack of inspiration or inclination.  My day job reached all consuming heights and left little energy or time for anything else.  My creativity was completely sapped.

So… to get things going again, here’s a comforting and warming dish of slow braised beef cheeks with a savoury broth, served over a bed of cheesy polenta.

Although the original recipe indicates a three hour cooking time for the meat, I let it blip away on the stove for double that time which improves the depth of flavour and tenderness of the beef cheeks.

beef cheeks with parmesan polenta | table twenty eight

slow braised beef cheeks
with parmesan polenta

from the may 2012 edition of delicious. magazine


150g instant polenta

½ cup grated parmesan
80g butter
generous pinch of sea salt
chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

beef cheeks
2kg beef cheeks, trimmed and halved
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 fresh bay leaves (use dried if you can’t get fresh)
750ml bottle of full-bodied red wine
2 onions, chopped
2 carrots, sliced
3 celery stalks, diced
2 tsp chopped rosemary leaves
2 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
2 tbsp dried juniper berries, crushed
8 whole cloves
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
olive oil


Place a glug of olive oil in a large cast iron or flameproof saucepan and heat over medium-high.  Season the beef cheeks well and then, in two batches, sear for a few minutes on each side until well-browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the garlic, bay leaves and juniper berries to the pan and cook a couple of minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant.  Return the beef to the pan, pour over the entire bottle of red wine and just enough water to cover.

Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to as low as possible.  Cover and cook for at least three hours or until the beef is tender (you should be able to break apart the meat with a spoon).

Once cooked, transfer the beef to a plate and cover.

Continue to simmer the cooking liquor, uncovered over low heat, until reduced by half.  Strain the cooking liquor and reserve.

beef cheeks with parmesan polenta | table twenty eight

In a clean saucepan, heat a glug of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook, stirring, for a few minutes until golden and translucent.  Add the carrot, celery, rosemary, thyme, nutmeg and cloves to the onions and cook for 10 minutes or so until starting to brown.

Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer for a minute before stirring in the reserved cooking liquor. Increase the heat and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes or until the sauce is further reduced and the vegetables are tender.  Season to taste and return the beef cheeks to the pan, simmering for several minutes until the meat is warmed through.

The polenta can be made just before serving, as it’s super quick to prepare.   Bring three cups of water to the boil in a saucepan and gradually stir in the polenta.

Immediately turn the heat to low and stir constantly for a couple of minutes until the mixture has thickened.  Take care though, as the boiling water has a tendency to spit hot globules of polenta all over the place if you don’t stir vigorously enough!

Add the butter, grated parmesan and salt to the hot polenta, stirring though until the cheese has melted.

To serve, divide the polenta among bowls, spoon over the beef cheeks and sprinkle with fresh parsley.


lunch at bib & tucker

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight

After my favourite restaurant in Perth closed last year, I was at a bit of a loss.

Where to find another place that can always, always be relied upon to dish up excellent food, from entrée through to dessert? With an imaginative and creative interior, (thankfully managing to avoid off-putting contemporary pretentiousness), welcoming, with great atmosphere for all crowds, spot-on service and a picturesque location?

Sounds too perfect to be true, right…?

Well, welcome to my new favourite foodie retreat – Bib & Tucker.

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight

I’ve previously posted a dish inspired by a meal I ate here – chargrilled squid with smokey chilli, fennel and apple – and after several return visits I’m now a firm fan.

Nestled in the sand dunes and overlooking the beautiful vista of Leighton Beach in North Fremantle, the restaurant is abuzz with friendly activity and conversation.

One of its most admirable features is that it caters for such a wide crowd, whether it be beach-goers straight off the sand for post-swim coffees, a family Sunday brunch, long champagne lunch with friends or a special romantic occasion.

view from bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight

As their website notes, the modern Australian menu designed by Head Chef, Scott Bridger is created with food sourced from some of the best local suppliers available.

The views overlooking the Indian Ocean – beautiful in both summer and winter alike – provide a naturally stunning setting to enjoy with your meal.

I wanted to share with you some snapshots of the wonderful lunch I had with friends at Bib & Tucker on a dramatically windswept afternoon.

We didn’t manage to get one of the long tables indoors but wrapped up in the lovely knitted blankets provided, we were nice and cosy outside (looking like group of nannas in their shawls) with uninterrupted views of the waves and windsurfers…

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight


crispy skinned cone bay barramundi with rustic tapenade & smoked tomato

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight


soft shell crab slider with avocado, green chillies & coriander

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight


pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter, kale, sage, goat’s curd & walnut pangrattato

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight


wood-fired tiger prawns with harissa butter, watercress & citrus salad

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight


wood-roasted pumpkin with harissa & labne

lunch at bib & tucker, north fremantle | table twenty eight


weekend postcard | beach combing

beach combing treasures | table twenty eight

The stretch of South Cottesloe beach is my favourite place to beach comb and search for interesting pieces washed up on the shore.

The photos here show the assortment of shells, sea glass and other ocean treasures that Mum and I collected in just two hours, navigating the jagged rockpools, sandstone potholes and large mounds of tangled, briny seaweed.

cottesloe beach, western australia | table twenty eightsouth cottesloe beach, western australia | table twenty eight

cottesloe beach, western australia | table twenty eight

The waters along South Cott are popular with surfers and snorkelers alike as they cover large stretches of reef.

The northern-most access is a steep concrete stairway down a sheltered rock face, ending not on a traditional sandy beach but an exposed reef platform which continues south and is backed by low limestone cliffs rather than sand dunes.

It’s incredible to watch the changing landscape between seasons.  In summer the sand builds up along the waterline and covers the lower-lying pockets of the rocky shore, creating winding sandy paths between the higher remnant of reef.

But in winter the ocean reclaims possession of the coast, the higher tides eroding the sandy veneer to lay bare the skeleton below.

A couple of days ago stormy weather had passed over the coastline during the night, resulting in fantastic swell and a large congregation of surf lovers taking advantage of the breakers…

cottesloe beach, western australia | table twenty eight cottesloe beach, western australia | table twenty eight cottesloe beach, western australia | table twenty eight

beach combing treasures | table twenty eight

beach combing treasures | table twenty eight

beach combing treasures | table twenty eight

beach combing treasures | table twenty eight

beach combing treasures | table twenty eight


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