broccolini & green bean salad with curry leaves & fresh coconut


broccolini, green bean & fresh coconut salad | table twenty eight

:: I’ll keep this post short and sweet, because the end of year crazies are getting to me and I’d like table twenty eight to retain a readership.

Last week I made a snap decision to take the week of Christmas off to recover and recharge, as I think I reached the end of my annual cerebral allowance a few weeks ago and am now just running on fumes.

In the effort not to forget anything and trying to remember from minute to minute why I’ve walked into a particular room or decipher what I’ve madly scribbled on a particular post-it note, there’s a constant bedlam of haphazard thoughts charging around my brain, often emerging in garbled mutterings to myself, and then sudden vocal outbursts when lucid thoughts manage to break through – ‘GhfhrhgnrrmnCHRISTMASCAKEfghrrhfhnfhrngfPETROLfhrghhfhgnrggghhMILK!ghfmrenmrhfhnfhBAILEYFOODfgrhegrhjfhreghngCUPOFTEA…’

So before I get distracted and go off on a tangent, I’ll direct you to the recipe at hand – Yotam Ottolenghi’s broccolini and green bean salad with curry leaves and fresh coconut.

This inventive combination may sound intimidating due to a list of exotic ingredients but don’t be fooled – it’s dead easy.

broccolini, green bean & fresh coconut salad | table twenty eight

Fresh coconuts have become much easier to come by (the brown rough-skinned type, not the young drinking coconuts) and you just need a couple of household tools handy to open them up.

Use a screwdriver to drill open two of the eyes (one of the three will always be easier than the other two) and drain the coconut water into a glass – perfect refreshment while you’re cooking.

You can then use a hammer to bang along the equator of coconut until it splits or alternatively – as I did – head outside and drop the coconut a few times on concrete paving until it cracks open.

I also had issues with hunting down frozen edamame beans so used shelled broad beans instead, which still worked very well. The combination of black mustard seeds, lime and curry leaves is so wonderfully aromatic… I guarantee you’ll be making this dish again.

broccolini, green bean & fresh coconut salad | table twenty eight

broccolini & green bean salad with curry leaves & fresh coconut

adapted slightly from ‘plenty more’ by yotam ottolenghi

2 bunches of broccolini (or purple sprouting broccoli), trimmed

2 handfuls of green beans (haricots verts), trimmed
½ cup shelled frozen edamame (or substitute with broad beans)
1 medium brown onion, finely diced
2 ½ tsp black mustard seeds
30 fresh curry leaves (or 40 dried curry leaves)
1 – 3 whole dried chillies (depending on your taste)
2 fresh limes
⅔ cup of coriander (cilantro) leaves
⅔ cup coarsely grated fresh coconut
sea salt
olive oil

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.

Carefully add the broccolini stems and green beans.  Blanch for a few minutes until just tender but still with bite.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Pat the vegetables dry and transfer to large serving bowl or platter.

If you’re using edamame, bring the saucepan of water back to the boil and blanch them for a couple of minutes.  Transfer to your colander, run under cold water, pat dry and scatter over the other green vegetables.

Alternatively, if you’re using broad beans like I did, remove the tough outer shells from the individual beans and add directly to the broccolini and green beans (you won’t need to blanch them as they’re already tender enough).

Sprinkle a pinch or two of sea salt over the vegetables.  Stir and set aside until needed.

broccolini, green bean & fresh coconut salad | table twenty eight

Add a few glugs of olive oil to a large frypan over medium-high heat.  Add the sliced onion and a pinch of sea salt to the pan, and gently cook for several minutes until soft.

Add the black mustard seeds and when the seeds begin to pop, add the curry leaves and chillies.  Use a vegetable peeler to remove wide strips of zest from the limes and add to the frypan.  Sauté everything for another couple of minutes, before pouring the fragrant mixture over the top of the vegetables.

Gently turn the salad over with your fingers and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Just before serving, squeeze the juice of the limes over the top of the salad.  Add the coriander leaves and grated fresh coconut, then gently toss and drizzle lightly with olive oil.


peanut butter caramel slice

 peanut butter caramel slice | table twenty eight

:: Each year at work we arrange kris kringle amongst our immediate team and for my gift this year I made a batch of this moreish peanut butter caramel slice. 

Sweet treats work really well as kris kringle gifts, as it’s hard to go wrong with baked goods – especially if they’re homemade and come in a nice container that can be kept and re- purposed (used tupperware doesn’t count).

 It’s also a great option if you don’t know your recipient very well, because a) homemade gifts carry a nice personal touch and b) …well, it’s edible… Enough said.

weekend coffee & bailey | table twenty eight

This recipe hails from the classic cooking repository of the Australian Women’s Weekly, from a specialty biscuit edition that’s got to be at least twenty years old.

I popped over to Mum’s last week to to trawl through her AWW cookbooks and flicking through them brought back so many childhood recollections.  As previously noted, my memory is fundamentally linked to food and triggered by recalling whatever I happened to be eating at the time.

Well, looking through those familiar pages of lemon coconut slice, stained glass biscuits and honey jumbles, I couldn’t help but be transported back to primary school age…

 We’d regularly come home to Mum’s baking, often found still cooling on a wire rack on top of the stove, the kitchen full of sugary smells and – if we were lucky – the mixing bowl still waiting to be licked clean.

peanut butter caramel slice | table twenty eight

I’ve tweaked the original recipe a bit to include peanut butter, by replacing the same measure of butter in the caramel topping (because let’s face it – almost everybody’s life can be improved by more peanut butter).

 (Apologies to those allergic to peanuts, you might have to sit this one out…!)

peanut butter caramel slice | table twenty eight

peanut butter caramel slice

adapted from ‘the big book of beautiful biscuits’ by the australian women’s weekly

125g butter

1 cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup plain flour
¼ cup self-raising flour
pinch of sea salt

peanut caramel topping
½ cup brown sugar

60g butter
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
150g roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 tsp sea salt

Preheat your oven to 180°C and line a lamington tray with baking paper.  The baking paper isn’t technically essential (you can grease the pan with a little butter instead) but it makes removing and cutting the slice far easier at the end.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.  Add the egg yolk and whisk briefly to combine.

Sift together the plain flour, self-raising flour and salt, and add to the wet mixture.  Whisk on low until the mixture resembles large breadcrumbs (I needed to add a teaspoon of cold water to bring mine together).

Once thoroughly combined, tip the ‘crumbs’ onto the baking paper within the lamington tray and use the back of a soup spoon to spread and smooth over the biscuit dough in a single, even layer.

Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden and starting to brown at the edges. 

Remove and set aside while you make the peanut caramel topping.

  peanut butter caramel slice | table twenty eight

Place the butter, sugar, golden syrup and peanut butter in a small saucepan over low heat.  Whisk together until the sugar has dissolved and the sauce is an even consistency.

Simmer gently for 5 minutes before stirring through the sea salt and chopped peanuts.

Remove the caramel from the heat and pour over the biscuit base, making sure all the surface is covered.

Bake for a further 5 minutes and then set aside to cool completely, before removing from the tray and cutting into squares.


moroccan broad bean salad with yoghurt dressing

moroccan broad bean salad with yoghurt dressing | table twenty e

My uncle Mark is a fantastic cook and I always look forward to his contributions when the family gets together.

His creations are most often vegetarian and gluten-free (to suit my aunt) and are always packed with fragrant spices and strong flavours, thanks to his Indian heritage and influences from Middle-Eastern cuisine (think Yotam Ottolenghi’s style).

I remember the first time I ate this salad, it stopped me in my tracks.

Each mouthful just seemed to get better and better than the last. The balance of spices, different textures and heat mingling together – earthy, grassy broad beans; caramelised onions spiked with chilli, curry leaves and cumin; the crunch of toasty croutons; cooling, lemon-garlic yoghurt and fragrant, fresh mint to top it all off…

It really is a revelation.

moroccan broad bean salad with yoghurt dressing | table twenty eight

moroccan broad bean salad with yoghurt dressing | table twenty eight

I of course asked for the recipe (before I’d even scraped my plate clean) and uncle Mark kindly obliged.  But I was inexplicably left disappointed and scratching my head the first time I made it, as it totally lacked the intensity and intrinsic layers of seasoning that initially blew my mind…

Essentially, it lacked the MAGIC.

So we arranged a weekend cooking date and I showed up, camera and tripod – and tastebuds – at the ready to capture the creation of this dish.  It had undergone some refining in the meantime with the addition of oven-roasted cherry tomatoes, adding vibrant colour and a subtle sweetness to the palate.  My aunt and uncle have a curry tree in their yard and the freshly picked leaves seem to make a huge difference to the overall final flavour.

We also used the oven-roasted cherry tomatoes in another great ‘salad’ of feta shards, chargrilled chilli peppers, toasted walnuts and balsamic dressing (see the photo below).

Vegetarians and carnivores alike – enjoy!

feta with chargrilled chillies, walnuts & balsamic dressing | table twenty eightfeta with chargrilled chillies, walnuts & balsamic dressing | table twenty eight

moroccan broad bean salad with yoghurt dressing

2 punnets of mixed cherry tomatoes

a few springs of oregano and thyme, leaves chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp cumin seeds, chopped (not ground)
1 dried chilli, finely chopped (or more, depending how hot you like it)
10 fresh curry leaves
2 – 3 slices of bread (gluten-free preferably), toasted and roughly diced
handful of fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped

broad beans
2 – 3 cups broad beans (frozen or fresh), shelled and pods removed

zest and juice from 1 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

yoghurt dressing
2 cups thick greek yoghurt

1 clove garlic, finely chopped to a paste
juice from 1 lemon
sea salt

Preheat your oven to 250°C.

Place the cherry tomatoes in a large baking dish, scatter over the chopped garlic, oregano and thyme.  Drizzle with olive oil and place in the oven for half an hour, or until the tomatoes are blistered and roasted.

Remove and set aside to cool.

If you’re using fresh broad beans, blanch them in unsalted boiling water for a couple of minutes (they should still have bite).  Remove, run under cold water to stop the cooking process and drain, laying on a tray to cool down slightly.

Place the broad beans in a bowl and dress with lemon juice and olive oil (about a 1:3 ratio, one tablespoon of lemon juice to three tablespoons of oil).

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and taste to make sure the flavours are balanced.  Add a little more lemon juice if needed and then let the beans marinate while you prepare the other ingredients.

moroccan broad bean salad | table twenty eight

In a large, shallow bowl (which can also be used as the serving bowl), mix the yoghurt with the garlic paste, remaining lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Taste to ensure the flavours are balanced, adjust if needed and place in fridge until needed.

Heat a little olive oil in a large, shallow pan over medium-low. Add the chopped onion, cumin seeds, chilli and curry leaves, stirring and cooking until the onions are soft.

As the onions start to colour, turn up the heat slightly, add the diced bread and combine thoroughly with the onions.  Continue to cook, stirring constantly (watch it very carefully!) until the bread is crispy and golden.  Season to taste and set aside to cool slightly.

When ready to serve, add the mint leaves to the broad beans and toss through, before scattering on top of the yoghurt.  Scatter over the spiced croutons and onions and finally, top with the roasted tomatoes.

Lightly sprinkle some lemon zest on top, drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive and serve immediately.

beef empanadas

beef empanadas | table twenty eight

:: As mentioned in my last post, I spent a recent afternoon cooking up a Mexican feast with friends.

In addition to Nicole’s drop-dead delicious jalapeño poppers we feasted on these wonderful beef empanadas, courtesy of a new cookbook – ‘My Abuela’s Table’ by Daniella Germain.

In this book, Daniella shares the recipes handed from her Mexican grandmother – her abuela – as well delving in to the basics of authentic Mexican cuisine, such as spices and chilli varieties.

beef empanadas | table twenty eight

But the most stand-out feature of the book are the whimsical illustrations adorning every page, many of which won’t fail to elicit a smile (like cute little chickens recommending favourite recipes)!

Although I’m normally one of those people for whom photos are a necessary ingredient in recipe books, I went straight out to buy my own copy after leafing through Nic’s.

It’s such a beautiful, all-encompassing piece of creativity – go check it out…

beef empanadas | table twenty eight

beef empanadas

based on the recipe from ‘my abuela’s table’ by daniella germain
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 chorizo, skin removed and finely diced
500g shin beef, trimmed and cubed
3 bay leaves
400g tin diced tomatoes
⅓ cup pine nuts
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
2 cups beef stock
1 tsp white wine vinegar
black pepper
olive oil

for the pastry
5 sheets shortcrust pastry

milk (for sealing the pastry)
1 egg
2 tbsp water

Preheat your oven to 180°C and line two large baking trays with baking paper.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, fry onion and garlic in a little olive oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chorizo and fry for another few minutes until the fat from the sausage has rendered and the chorizo is browned (but not crispy).

Add the beef cubes and fry for a further five minutes until browned, before adding all the remaining filling ingredients and combining gently but thoroughly.

Cover the pan and simmer gently for one and a half hours, stirring occasionally to ensure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. After this time, uncover and simmer for a further hour until the sauce is thick and almost dry. The meat should be completely tender and falling apart easily, so you may need to add extra water during the cooking process if it needs longer.

Once the sauce is reduced and very thick, remove from the heat and set aside to cool completely (this is important, as hot filling will ruin your pastry before it’s even hit the oven),

beef empanadas | table twenty eight

When you’re ready to assemble your empanadas, clear a nice big space on your bench top (kitchen tables also work well). Pour some milk into a small bowl and set down within easy reaching distance.

Cut 15cm (6 inch) circles from the pastry sheets and place two heaped tablespoons of beef sauce in the centre of each.

Carefully fold into a half moon shape and seal the edges with a dab or two of milk. Use your fingers or a fork to create fancy folded or crimped edge.

Beat the egg together with the water and brush over the tops of the prepared empanadas, and then bake for 15 minutes until golden and crispy.

jalapeño poppers

 jalapeño poppers | table twenty eight

:: A famous English band once sang, I get by with a little help from my friends.

In times of change or turmoil, we gravitate to those people we depend upon; familiar, steadfast, friendly faces who know what’s needed when life pulls a fast one or decides to charge off into minefield-strewn war zone.

If you’re very lucky indeed, you may have a handful of close, intensely loyal and irreplaceable friends. Those who know you so well that they don’t need to know all the gory battle details, or try to fix the situation, or (worse) pretend that things are just peachy – they just know what’s needed, whether that be a bear hug, a tub of ice cream, a laugh, or in more serious cases, a baseball bat and getaway vehicle.

Sometimes good things have to fall apart to make way for better things. This can be an incredibly tough and painful experience when you’re going through it – but when enough time has passed, the revelation can be life-changing.

jalapeños | table twenty eight

I’m blessed with a number of truly wonderful friends and spent Saturday afternoon in my kitchen with best mates Mike and Nicole, combining efforts to whip up a Mexican feast. 

Nic had recently bought a beautifully illustrated cookbook by Daniella Germain called My Abuela’s Table, which shares the culinary repertoire of the author’s Mexican-born grandmother (her abuela). It had been some time since the three of us had cooked a meal together, and with a new reserve of authentic Mexican recipes to inspire us, we settled on a couple of dishes we’d never cooked before – jalapeño poppers and beef empanadas (recipe and photos to follow in another post). 

Nic made these dangerously addictive jalapeño poppers, Mike made a batch of fresh guacamole (which was eaten before it could feature in any photos), and while I was in charge of the empanadas, the pastry production line was a joint effort. It was such an enjoyable way to spend a weekend afternoon – relaxing with favourite company, creating delicious food…

And getting to eat it all the end of the day.

jalapeños | table twenty eight
jalapeño poppers

based on the recipe from betty

250g cream cheese, softened

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
10 jalapeño chillies
1 cup plain flour
pinch of sea salt
black pepper
2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup fine breadcrumbs
vegetable oil for deep frying

Halve the jalapeños lengthwise, keeping the stems intact where possible (these are handy for picking up the cooked poppers).  Use a teaspoon to remove the seeds and set aside the hollowed out chillies.

In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese, cheddar cheese and spices until well blended.  Spoon the mixture evenly into each of the jalapeño halves and place on a baking tray.  Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to firm up the cheese fillings.

Next, you’ll need to assemble a ‘crumbing assembly line’. In small bowl, sift together the flour, salt and pepper; in second bowl, whisk together the milk and egg; and in a third bowl, tip in the breadcrumbs.

Coat each stuffed chilli half in flour mixture and then in the milk mixture. Dip once again in flour and then milk, before coating thoroughly in breadcrumbs to ensure the chillies are completely covered.

jalapeño poppers | table twenty eight

In deep fryer or heavy saucepan, heat several inches of vegetable oil until a breadcrumb sizzles and bubbles vigorously.

Fry the jalapeño poppers in batches for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown (if the cheese starts to ooze out, the poppers are starting to overcook – remove immediately).

Drain on paper towels and serve warm, sprinkled with more sea salt.

pumpkin, prosciutto & ricotta lasagne with chilli

pumpkin, prosciutto & ricotta lasagne with chilli | table twenty eight

pumpkin, prosciutto & ricotta lasagne
with chilli

based on the recipe in the august 2014 issue of delicious. magazine

500g ricotta

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
¾ cup milk
freshly ground nutmeg
1 ¼ cups finely grated parmesan
500g fresh lasagne sheets
¼ cup olive oil
1kg butternut pumpkin, peeled and finely sliced
150g finely sliced prosciutto
2 red chillies, seeds removed and finely sliced
handful of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
Preheat your oven to 180°C.

Combine ricotta, finely chopped garlic, milk, a pinch of nutmeg and half the parmesan.  Season well.

Lightly oil a deep baking dish and place a layer of lasagne sheets over the base.

pumpkin, prosciutto & ricotta lasagne with chilli | table twenty eight

Arrange a third of the pumpkin slices, chilli, sage and prosciutto slices over the pasta.  Drizzle with olive oil followed by a quarter of the ricotta mixture.

Repeat these layers twice more, finishing with a final layer of lasagne sheets and remaining ricotta.

Cover the surface with a sheet of baking paper and foil, and bake for 40 minutes.  Uncover, scatter with remaining parmesan and a few pinches of nutmeg,

Bake for a further 20 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

pumpkin, prosciutto & ricotta lasagne with chilli | table twenty eight

lemon & mascarpone baked cheesecake with candied lemons

lemon & mascarpone baked cheesecake | table twenty eight

:: Last week my desk neighbour Mike brought in a bag full of lemons from his tree at home and seeing as it’s been far too long in between lemon desserts, I decided to bake a lemon and mascarpone cheesecake.

The recipe I used was one of Bill Granger’s and it turned out flawlessly.  Cheesecakes really aren’t that arduous to prepare but they do take time and patience to get that light, only-just-cooked, quintessential texture.

I had a vision of candied lemon slices cascading over the top but I’ve screwed up endeavours to make candied lemons in the past sans recipe (just winging it and hoping for the best).

So in the interest of success, I consulted the Pinterest bible and found a superb-looking recipe posted by Melina Thompson on Best Friends For Frosting (prediction: I will be attempting the entire New York-style coconut cheesecake with lemons in future, stay tuned)…

lemon & mascarpone baked cheesecake | table twenty eight

The one thing I would tweak is the amount of sugar used for the candied lemons.  I was hoping for a citrusy, vibrant, rather tart syrup to offset the richness of the cheesecake but a) I think the ratio of sugar to water was too much; b) it needed additional lemon juice to up the tart factor; and c)… I was rather distracted and let it reduce for too long, tipping it over that crucial point to become toffee…

…which is perfectly fine if toffee is your intention but not so great for drizzling stylishly of the top of a cake.

Encouraging viscous toffee to ‘lightly drizzle’ turns out to be about as easy as separating individual sheets of filo pastry without any tears or holes – it’s fiddly, frustrating as hell and everyone’s feelings just end up getting get hurt.

So after the initial experiment, I suggest using only half a cup of sugar and adding the finely strained juice of couple more lemons.

lemon & mascarpone baked cheesecake with candied lemons 007

lemon & mascarpone baked cheesecake
with candied lemons

based on bill granger’s recipe in the february 2011 issue of delicious. magazine

175g digestive or shortbread biscuits

80g unsalted butter, melted
500g cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 cup caster sugar
4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
finely grated zest and juice of a large lemon
400g mascarpone cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract

candied lemons (recipe from best friends for frosting)
1 cup sugar

1 cup water
2 small lemons, thinly sliced and seeds removed

Preheat your oven to 140°C. Lightly butter a 24cm springform cake pan and line the base with baking paper.

Half fill a deep baking tray (or roasting pan) with boiling water and place on the bottom shelf of the oven. This will help prevent the cheesecake from drying out during cooking.

Place the biscuits in a food processor and pulse they form crumbs. If you’re like me and don’t own a food processor, you can always chuck the biscuits in a large plastic sandwich bag or between two sheets of baking paper and bash the hell out of them with a rolling pin (which takes longer, but is rather satisfying).

Add the melted butter to the biscuits crumb and stir through to ensure you have an evenly coated mixture. Press the mixture into the base of the prepared pan. Pop into the fridge until you’ve finished the filling.

lemon & mascarpone baked cheesecake | table twenty eight

To make the filling, place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and cream together until smooth and well combined. Add the mascarpone and whisk again until smooth. With the mixer running, add the eggs and egg yolk, one at time, whisking gently in between additions. Finally, add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and juice, and whisk together until you have a smooth, velvety consistency.

Pour the filling over the prepared base and bake the cheesecake on the middle shelf of the oven for one hour (it will still have a slight wobble in the centre). Leave the cheesecake to cool in the switched-off oven (with the door closed) for a further hour or until completely set.

Transfer the cheesecake to a wire rack to cool completely. Cover the pan with cling film and chill for at least four hours or overnight.

lemon & mascarpone baked cheesecake | table twenty eight

To make the candied lemons, bring the sugar and water to a boil in a large skillet or saucepan. Stir gently until the sugar is dissolved and when liquid is clear and bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low.

Add lemon slices, arranging them in one layer with tongs. Simmer (do not let boil!) until the lemons turn slightly dark, about 30 minutes. Remove the lemons and let them cool on a china plate, uncovered, until ready to serve.

Let the syrup cool completely before drizzling over the cheesecake and layering candied lemon slices over the top.


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