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.

huevos rancheros with frijoles refritos

huevos rancheros with frijoles refritos | table twenty eight

:: It seems to me that the humble egg has become a forgotten source of protein.

Of course there’s the time-honoured (some would say religious) tradition of the Sunday fry-up but eggs are equally as brilliant at the other end of the day for dinner.

The perks – they cook quickly, there’s no prep and they’re extremely versatile. All of which are become a key factor when deciding what to cook after a day in the office.

huevos rancheros with frijoles refritos | table twenty eight

I’ve found a great way to solve the ‘I want dinner in the next 20 minutes or I’m like to eat a bag of chips and a whole wheel of brie but I’m far too tired to cook’ dilemma, which starts with cooking up a big batch of a tomato-based sauce on the weekend filled with lots of good stuff, such as spinach, kale, broccoli, roasted capsicums or aubergines. Get creative and take the flavours to any country you like (add olives or sundried tomatoes for something Italian, or season with sumac and cumin to take it more in a Middle-Eastern direction). At the end of the day, the goal is the packing in as much flavour and vegetables as possible.

Portion up the sauce into single servings and freeze. That way, if you’re in need of an super fast (but most importantly, healthy) mid-week dinner, you can just defrost a portion of sauce, crack in a couple of eggs and put under the grill or in the oven until the eggs are cooked. Crumble over some feta or parmesan and you’ve got a hearty meal with a good dose of protein and vitamin-rich veg.

Huevos rancheros is a Mexican vegetarian dish more commonly associated with breakfast but it works just as well for dinner.

Although black beans seem to be more commonly used in the sauce base, I’ve used refried beans (frijoles refritos) in my version. This is another example of a sauce you could make in advance and freeze in portions ahead of the working week. You just need a few fresh ingredients on hand (avocados, coriander and tortillas), plus of course the all-important namesake –eggs.

huevos rancheros with frijoles refritos | table twenty eight
huevos rancheros

with frijoles refritos

8 eggs

2 avocados, halved and sliced
8 small corn tortillas
1 bunch fresh coriander, roughly chopped
extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
fresh limes, halved to serve
cracked black pepper
sea salt

frijoles refritos
3 x 400g tins (approximately 3 cups) kidney beans, drained

2 large onions, finely chopped
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 – 3 tbsp finely chopped jalapeños
¼ cup olive oil
sea salt

In a large, heavy-bottom saucepan warm a few glugs of olive oil over medium heat.

Add the onions and kidney beans and gently cook for five minutes, stirring regularly to ensuring nothing sticks to the pan. You don’t want to colour the onions and beans (rather sweat them out and flavour them with the olive oil).

Add the garlic, tomatoes and jalapeños to the saucepan. Season well, cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil.

Turn the heat down to the lowest setting possible and simmer, uncovered, for two to three hours until the beans are soft. As the water evaporates, add more boiling water to keep the ingredients barely covered.

Once the beans are soft, drain off any excess water and mash the beans with a potato masher until the mixture is relatively smooth. Check the seasoning and adjust to your liking.

When you’re ready to start preparing the heuvos rancheros, wrap the tortillas in foil and place in low oven to warm them through.

You can either poach or fry your eggs – it’s entirely up to you. I much prefer poached eggs, done for two and half minutes in boiling salted water (which in my humble opinion makes for a perfect, partially runny yolk).

To serve, place two warmed tortillas on each plate, top with the beans, two eggs and some avocado slices. Sprinkle with fresh coriander, drizzle with olive oil and crack over a few twists of black pepper. Serve with limes for squeezing over the top and some chilli sauce (like Tabasco) for those who like some heat.

Consume with gusto!

crispy calamari with homemade aioli

crispy calamari with homemade aioli | table twenty eight

:: It was about time I ticked off another item from my ‘too difficult and irrationally scary’ list –


I have a vague memory of attempting this years ago but after ending up with a thin, split, oily mess, I threw the whole lot in the bin and have relied on Zoosh or Simon Johnson for all my mayonnaise needs since.

However, I now realise my grave error on that initial occasion was attempting to make mayonnaise in a BLENDER.

The logic clearly stemmed from the fact that I had no inclination to give my old-fashioned egg beaters a thorough workout (not to mention my poor arms)!  But the blender was an unfortunate alternative and entirely the wrong tool for the job.

Instead of lightly whipping the eggs and oil into a smooth, buttery consistency, the blades prevented the mixture from emulsifying and chopped the whole thing into an awful mess.  Blergh.

crispy calamari with homemade aioli | table twenty eight

Happily, my latest endeavour yielded far more successful results. I carefully brought together the mayonnaise in the bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer using the whipping attachment and it turned out wonderfully, with a satiny, delightfully creamy consistency.

A small addition of garlic and voila! – aioli – the perfect accompaniment for a batch of hot, crunchy deep-fried calamari.

crispy calamari with homemade aioli 005

crispy calamari
with homemade aioli

based on jamie oliver’s recipe in the april 2014 issue of delicious. magazine

400g squid, cleaned and tentacles reserved

¼ cup plain flour
2 tsp smoked paprika
sunflower oil, to deep-fry
sea salt

2 egg yolks

1 tsp dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, very finely minced
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 – 2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 cup light olive oil
juice of half a lemon, plus wedges to serve

To make the aioli, whisk the egg yolks until creamy (either with a hand beater or in the bowl of an electric mixer).

Stir in the mustard and gradually pour in the extra virgin olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly for about 5 minutes until thickened.

Stir in a tablespoon of white wine vinegar and gradually pour in the light olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly until you have a thick mayonnaise.

Stir through the garlic, season with sea salt and lemon juice to taste, adding more vinegar if needed.

Store the aioli in a sterilised jar in the fridge for up to a week.

crispy calamari with homemade aioli | table twenty eight

To prepare the squid, slice the hoods lengthways to open them up. Score the insides with a criss-cross pattern and cut into triangles.

Mix together the flour, paprika and sea salt in a deep bowl and toss through the squid pieces, including the tentacles.

Fill a large saucepan or wok one-third full with sunflower oil and heat it until a pinch of flour sizzles when it hits the oil.

Shake off any excess flour from the squid pieces and fry in batches for about a minute until golden. Drain on paper towels.

Sprinkle the calamari with sea salt and serve with the aioli and lemon wedges.


pecan & maple ice cream

pecan & maple ice cream | table twenty eight

:: I’ve fallen into the blissful routine of the heading to the beach every morning for a run and a swim, followed by a leisurely spot of coffee at my favourite local joint.

With my last swim being in June and my first swim of the season at the beginning of September, it goes without saying that we are incredibly blessed with our beautiful beaches and sunny skies.

Interestingly – though the sunshine is out – the coastal landscape is not quite back to its usual summer form, with the tide line still marching towards the dunes and swallowing much of the beach itself.

On one of my early morning expeditions to (for which I luckily had my camera handy), large tidal pools had formed all along the stretches of wet sand, creating a lovely rippled aquatic vista.

swanbourne beach | table twenty eight

swanbourne beach | table twenty eightswanbourne beach | table twenty eight

swanbourne beach | table twenty eightswanbourne beach | table twenty eight

swanbourne beach | table twenty eight

Ice cream seemed the perfect homage to the weather and my love of the sand and surf – especially with the kiss of salt on the caramelised pecans.

Thanks to the ladies of Have a Yummy Day for the recipe inspiration.

pecan & maple ice cream | table twenty eight

pecan & maple ice cream

inspired by the recipe featured on ‘have a yummy day’ blog

caramelised pecans
180g pecan nuts

4 tbsp raw sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp water
sea salt

maple ice cream
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped

1 ¾ cups milk (whole fat)
1 ¼ cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks
¾ cup raw sugar
4 tbsp maple syrup, plus additional for serving

For the caramelised pecans, place the sugars and water in a saucepan over medium heat.

Whisking constantly, bring the ingredients to the boil (don’t worry if some of the raw sugar remains undissolved – this adds to the texture). Quickly add the nuts to the saucepan, swirl to coat with the caramel and then spread out in a single layer on a sheet of baking paper.

Sprinkle with sea salt, allow the nuts to cool and chop about two-thirds into rough pieces. Reserve the remaining whole pecans for serving.

caramelised pecans | table twenty eight

To make the maple ice cream, place the milk, cream, vanilla pod and seeds in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil.

In large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until thick, pale and almost fluffy.

Add the maple syrup to the hot cream mixture and pour over the yolks.

Pour everything back into the saucepan and – whisking continuously – let the mixture simmer to 85°C or until it starts to thicken.

Remove the saucepan from the heat before it reaches boiling point. This is a particularly crucial bit, as the mixture will split if it’s allowed to boil.

Pour the cream mixture into a large bowl and refrigerate until cool.

pecan & maple ice cream | table twenty eight

Pour through a sieve to remove any remaining solids and churn in an ice cream maker according to the machine’s instructions.

Add the chopped pecans to the ice cream, fold through and transfer to an airtight container. Freeze for at least two hours or until solid enough to scoop.

Serve topped with the additional caramelised pecans and drizzled with maple syrup.


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