caramelised onion & feta tarte

caramelised onion & feta tarte 001
:: To take a leaf from Game of Thrones, winter is coming…
Autumn is my favourite time of the year for so many reasons and telltale hints of the changing season are in the air.
When just a few weeks ago I was leaving the house after sunrise, there is now only a faint glow of dawn at the edges of the sky as I wait for the train. There’s a nip of coldness too, a bracing morning wake-up when I step out of the front door – a promise of what’s to come.
Baking of course lends itself perfectly to the cooler months and this recipe is a prime example of the transition to warmer, comforting, more indulgent inclinations.

caramelised onion & feta tarte 002

It’s based on an onion quiche eaten during a visit to our friends in Narrogin, which has stayed in my mind thanks to the very distinct and rather unique addition of whole cumin seeds.
I know it’s very unusual to see cumin in a dish outside of its usual oriental repertoire – but pairing it with the sweet richness of caramelised onions and salty, savoury feta is just genius.
I used spelt flour rather than going the traditional route for shortcrust pastry, which gave me a rather more robust wholemeal crust. However, you can certainly substitute plain flour in the pastry recipe below.
But please please don’t go omitting the cumin just because it sounds strange – trust me, the flavours of this irresistible tarte will stay with you long after you’ve gone back for seconds and scraped every last crumb from your plate… Just as it did with me.
caramelised onion & feta tarte 003

caramelised onion & feta tarte

spelt shortcrust pastry

200g spelt flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 tsp fine sea salt
150g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
1 large egg, lightly beaten
ice cold water
1 tbsp olive oil
2 brown onions, peeled and sliced
4 – 5 eschallots, peeled and sliced
1 cup pouring cream
2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp brown sugar
300g feta, crumbled
2 eggs
black pepper

Begin by preparing the spelt shortcrust pastry.
Combine the flour, salt and butter in a food processor, blending on low speed for 10 seconds until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
Add the beaten egg and process again for a few seconds until the dough comes together.
Pastry consistencies may differ depending on flour blends, the size of eggs used or discrepancies with weight measurements, so you may need to adjust your dough at this point if it is too dry or too wet.
If the dough is too dry, add a little of the ice cold water one teaspoon at a time and process again in short pulses until the dough comes together.
My dough happened to be rather sticky and wet at this point, so I added more flour – one tablespoon at a time – until I had a nice firm consistency.
Turn out your dough onto a lightly floured surface and gather it into a ball, avoiding kneading it too much in the process.
Press the dough into a slightly flattened disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes (or up to 24 hours if need be).
caramelised onion & feta tarte 005
For the caramelised onion filling, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Add the sliced onions, eschallots, salt and brown sugar, and cook for several minutes, stirring regularly, until the onions are lightly golden.
Cover, turn down the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions are very soft and starting to break down.
Turn the heat back up to medium, remove the lid and cook for another 5 – 10 minutes, stirring until most of the liquid has evaporated and the onions are almost ‘jammy’ in texture.
Remove the spelt dough from the refrigerator and let it sit for 10 minutes or so, until the dough can be rolled without cracking. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Sprinkle a large, clean surface lightly with flour and rub your rolling pin with flour to stop it sticking.
Lightly grease a tart pan with olive oil. Roll out the dough until it’s about 0.5 centimetres thick, according to the shape of your tart or quiche pan (I used rectangular but alternatively you could use a 25 centimetre circular pan).
Transfer the dough sheet to the pan and carefully press into the grooves, pushing out any air trapped underneath.
Trim any excess dough from around the top, prick the base all over with a fork and bake for 7 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and cream. Fold in the caramelised onion and eschallots, cumin and half of the crumbled feta. Season with black pepper but not with salt, as the feta will be salty enough to balance the flavour.
Pour into the tart shell (being carefully not to overfill), sprinkle with the remaining crumbled feta and bake for 30 minutes until the top is golden and the centre is still slightly soft.
Turn off the oven and leave the tart in the closed oven for another 10 minutes until just set.
Serve warm, with a side of a simple green salad.

mushroom, sage & prosciutto pizza with truffle oil

  mushroom, sage & prosciutto pizza with truffle oil | table twenty eight
::  One of the many, many things I enjoy about cooking is the creation factor, and sometimes you can end up with a result that’s very different (but in a surprising, gratifying way!) to what you originally set out to make.
This pizza is just one of those instances, as I started out wanting to replicate one eaten a while back at the Boston Brewery – a memorable combination of mushrooms, chorizo and lashings of truffle oil – but in the process it evolved into something new and equally delicious.
The driving factor was a small bottle of liquid gold – black truffle oil – which a colleague of mine very generously picked up for me on a weekend visit to Manjimup, a small country town in the middle of the giant karri forest in southern Western Australia.
mushroom, sage & prosciutto pizza with truffle oil | table twent
Having used chorizo in so many recipes recently (and at the risk of you all saying, ‘really…? again???’), I substituted finely shaved prosciutto, which crisps up beautifully after a hot blast in the oven.
I also drew influence from a pizza you may remember me raving about from my travels in Ireland last year, a thyme-marinated mushroom and goat’s cheese version.
I found a lovely, creamy white-mould chèvre from the Yarra Valley (like a brie made with goat’s milk instead of cow’s) which underpins everything with a salty, earthy, almost smoky flavour.
Lightly frying the mushrooms beforehand means they won’t turn into dried-up, shrivelled morsels on the finished pizza but most importantly, it also allows them to absorb the heady flavour of fried sage.
truffle oil & yarra valley chèvre | table twenty eight

1 quantity of pizza dough (see recipe here)
tomato sauce
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ½ cups tomato passata
bunch of lemon thyme, leaves picked
1 tsp castor sugar
black pepper
sea salt
100g goat’s brie or other white-mould chèvre
about 200g field mushrooms, torn into bite-sized pizzas
about 200g enoki mushrooms, cluster base removed and stalks separated
¼ cup chopped fresh sage leaves , plus extra leaves for serving
150g prosciutto, finely sliced
truffle oil, for drizzling

Preheat your oven to its highest setting (at least 250°C).
To make the tomato sauce, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat.
Add the crushed garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic softens and just begins to caramelise.
Add the tomato passata, sugar and thyme leaves to the saucepan, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to the lowest setting.
Season, then simmer for about 20 minutes or until the sauce has become rich and thick.  Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
yarra valley chèvre | table twenty eight
Meanwhile, heat a good glug of olive oil in a large frypan.  Add the mushroom pieces and chopped sage, tossing frequently over high heat until the mushrooms are golden and the sage is fragrant.
Remove from the heat and tip the mushrooms onto absorbent paper.
The pizza recipe I’ve included here makes about six medium-sized pizzas but you can divide your dough depending on the thickness and diameter you prefer (as you can see, mine is decidedly oblong and rustic)…
Remember the dough will rise, so even if you think you’ve rolled it thin enough, give it another going over to stretch it out a bit more and it should cook to the perfect thickness.
Spread the pizza bases with a thin layer of tomato sauce and dot with small wedges of chèvre.  Sprinkle a handful of mushrooms over in a loose layer, then scrunch up torn slices of prosciutto and push them in amongst the other ingredients.
Top with a final few wedges of chèvre (to melt nicely over the whole affair) and whole sage leaves (to crisp up on top of everything).
Place in a hot oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the base is golden brown and cooked through.
Drizzle with truffle oil, cut into thick slices and serve immediately.
mushroom, sage & prosciutto pizza with truffle oil | table twent

falafel wraps with grilled vegetables & salsa

falafel wraps with grilled veg & salsa | table twenty eight
::  It’s always enjoyable having friends cook for you – but one step better is having them cook for you in your own home.
A couple of weeks ago, N and M headed over to mine on a Friday evening and whipped up this wonderful spread of homemade felafels, chargrilled vegetables and delish sides.
It was so straight forward and so bursting with fresh flavours that I gave it a go myself the following week and knew I had to share it with you all.
I’ve used rice flour in my version, which means the dish can be made completely gluten-free (just make sure you use gluten-free wraps, of course!)…
falafel wraps with grilled veg & salsa | table twenty eight
adapted from jamie oliver’s 15-minute recipe
400g tin of mixed beans
400g tin of chickpeas
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tbsp harissa
1 heaped tsp allspice
1 heaped tbsp rice flour
bunch fresh coriander
olive oil
for the sides
2 mixed-colour capsicums (peppers)

4 spring onions
1 cup greek yogurt
fresh lebanese wraps
bunch fresh coriander, for serving
1 big handful mixed-colour ripe tomatoes
1 fresh red chilli
1 clove garlic
1 tsp tabasco sauce
1 lime
extra virgin olive oil


Drain the beans and chickpeas and place in a food processor.
Add the lemon zest, add a pinch of salt and pepper, harissa, allspice, rice flour and coriander stalks (reserving the leaves for the salsa).
Blitz until smooth, scraping down the sides of the processor if needed to make sure everything’s incorporated.
Scrape out the mixture from the processor and use clean, wet hands to quickly divide and shape the falafel mixture into eight walnut-sized balls.  Place on a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper.
At this point, turn on your oven to 150°C.
Add a tablespoon of oil into a frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add half of the falafels balls and press down gently to flatten them, until they’re about one and a half centimeters in thickness.
Cook on both sides until golden-brown and crisp, remove from the pan and drain on absorbent paper.
Repeat with the remaining felafels and place in the oven to keep warm while you prepare the sides.
falafel wraps with grilled veg & salsa | table twenty eight
Rip the seeds and stalks out of the capsicums and cut into large chunks.  Trim and halve the spring onions.
Heat a griddle pan on high and place the vegetables in a dry frypan to char.  Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and pepper, cooking until charred and the capsicums have begun to soften slightly.
For the salsa, place the tomatoes, chilli, garlic, tabasco and coriander leaves into a clean food processor.  Squeeze in the juice from the lime and blend until fine.
Season to taste, pour into a serving dish and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
Place the lebanese wraps into a damp, clean tea towel and heat in the oven for five minutes to warm them.
Squeeze the juice of half the zested lemon over the charred vegetables and scatter with fresh coriander.
Remove the falafels and wraps from the oven, adding to the spread of salsa, vegetables and greek yogurt and let everyone assemble their own plate.
falafel wraps with grilled veg & salsa | table twenty eight

seared scallops, smokey chorizo & roasted capsicum

seared scallops, smokey chorizo & capsicum | table twenty eight
::  I am a true water baby; a product of my upbringing, a child of the sea.
The ocean has been part of my life since before I could walk and now, as an adult, it’s a place of sanctuary and comfort – whether gloriously sunny and flat as turquoise glass, or stormy, wind-whipped and grey.
Swimming out beyond where I can stand and leaving the shore behind, it’s akin to leaving the world and my life on the other side.
That detachment – both physically and figuratively – brings a great sense of tranquillity and freedom.
Here are a few photos from my local beach and also a recipe that utilises one of the best crops the ocean has to offer – scallops.
swanbourne beach | table twenty eight
swanbourne beach | table twenty eight
swanbourne beach | table twenty eight
from the december 2010 issue of delicious. magazine
3 red capsicums (peppers)
2 vine-ripened tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
4 eschalots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 chorizos (about 250g), peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
16 large scallops on the half shell, orange roe removed
½ tsp smoked paprika

Pre-heat your oven to 200°C.
Place the capsicums on a baking tray and roast for 20 – 25 minutes, turning once, until the skins are charred and the flesh is tender.
Remove from the oven, seal in a plastic bag and leave to cool.  The plastic bag will cause the capsicums to sweat and makes them easier to peel.
seared scallops, smokey chorizo & capsicum | table twenty eight
Meanwhile, cut a small cross in the base of each tomato.  Blanch in a large saucepan for 20 seconds, then plunge into ice water for 30 seconds.
Peel, remove the seeds and finely chop the flesh.  Set aside.
Once cool enough to handle, split the capsicums over a bowl to collect all the juices.
Remove and discard the skin and seeds, then finely chop.  Add the chopped capsicum and juices to the tomatoes and set aside.
Heat some olive oil in a frypan over medium heat.  Add the eschalots, garlic and chorizo.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for several minutes or until the eschalots and garlic are soft and the chorizo is browned.
Add the paprika, tomatoes and capsicum to the pan and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse.
Remove the lid and simmer for another 10 minutes on low until the excess moisture has evaporated.  You want the sauce to be thick but not dry.
Stir in the chopped fresh parsley and season to taste.  Keep the sauce warm while you cook the scallops.
seared scallops, smokey chorizo & capsicum | table twenty eight
Remove the scallops from their shells and pat dry with a paper towel.  Season both sides of the scallops with a little salt and pepper.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frypan over high heat.  In two batches, sear the scallops for a minute on each side until golden but still translucent in the centre.
Repeat with the remaining oil and scallops.
Divide the chorizo and capsicum mixture among the cleaned scallop shells and top each with a scallop.
Serve immediately.
seared scallops, smokey chorizo & capsicum | table twenty eight

peking duck pancakes

peking duck pancakes | table twenty eight
::  I’ve been seeing duck pancakes a lot in the headlines recently, from foodie blogs to the menus of the city’s latest hip-trendy restaurants.
Wanting to see what all the fuss was about, I took a punt at making some myself and was happily rewarded with the outcome.  The richness of the duck and salty-sweet hoisin is perfectly balanced with fresh crispness from the raw vegetables – all enjoyed a handy edible pancake parcel.
I wanted to make my own roast duck from scratch, so looked to the expertise of my hero Mr Oliver to point me in the right direction.
Jamie recommends rubbing the cleaned duck with handfuls of salt, five-spice and grated ginger before placing it in a low oven for a couple of hours.
The salt draws the moisture from the skin and helps it crisp up wonderfully, while cooking it slowly ensures that the meat remains juicy and tender.
roasted peking duck | table twenty eight
And don’t go throwing away all that rendered fat at the bottom of the pan when you’re finished!
It’s wonderful stuff for roasting vegies (especially potatoes) – simply strain the room temperature lipids to remove any solids and place in a sterilised jar in the fridge until needed.

from the november 2008 issue of australian gourmet traveller magazine
1 peking roast duck (see here for Jamie’s recipe or alternatively, purchase a pre-roasted duck)
green onion pancakes
220ml milk
1 egg
2 tsp light soy sauce
½ cup rice flour
2 spring onions, thinly sliced diagonally
peanut oil
fresh snowpea salad
12 snowpeas, finely sliced lengthwise
2 spring onions, thinly sliced diagonally
2 cups snowpea tendrils, trimmed
½ cup bean sprouts
1 cup loosely packed coriander leaves
1 long red chilli, seeds removed, thinly sliced lengthwise
hoisin dressing
½ cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp sesame oil
peking duck pancakes | table twenty eight
To prepare the hoisin dressing, combine all ingredients and set aside.
For the pancakes, whisk the milk, egg and soy sauce together in a bowl.  Gradually add the flour, whisking until smooth.
Add the spring onions and stir through until combined.
Heat a small amount of peanut oil in a 15cm-diameter frypan over medium high heat.
Add a couple of tablespoons of pancake batter to the hot frypan and tip, swirling gently to evenly distribute.
Cook until air bubbles begin to form on the surface and flip, cooking the other side until golden and cooked through.
Repeat with the remaining batter and oil, wrapping the pancakes in a foil parcel as each one is finished.
peking duck pancakes | table twenty eight
To prepare the snowpea salad, fill a large bowl of cold water with half a dozen ice blocks.
Add the sliced snowpeas, sliced chillies, coriander and snowpea tendrils, submerging everything in the ice water.  This will ensure that all the vegetables are wonderfully crisp and crunchy.
Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Remove the meat and skin from the roast duck.  Shred the meat, place on an oven tray and place the best pieces of skin on top.
Warm the duck and foil-wrapped pancakes in the oven until the duck skin is crisp and hot.
Thinly slice the skin and combine with the shredded meat in a bowl. Set aside and keep warm.
peking duck pancakes | table twenty eight
Drain the salad ingredients sitting in the ice water, turn onto a clean tea towel and gently pat dry with absorbent paper.
Place in a serving bowl and toss with the spring onions and bean sprouts.
Serve the warm pancakes with duck, snowpea salad and hoisin dressing.
peking duck pancakes | table twenty eight

mango tartlets with coconut & rum caramel

mango tartlets with coconut & rum caramel | table twenty eight
::  I’m blessed with many advantages in this corner of the globe and this post is dedicated to just one of them:  beautiful, sweet and sunny Australian mangoes.
The tropical climate of Queensland produces the country’s biggest mango harvests but fruit is also grown in the sub-tropical regions of Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
We’re very lucky to have access not only to an abundance of produce but also a number of varieties, from large, heavy amber orbs weighing up to a kilo, to the smaller golden specimens which are perfect for cutting into ‘hedgehogs’…
calypso mangoes | table twenty eight
I’ve always generally preferred the pure fruit by itself over any mango-flavoured fare – the exception being a cold, frothy, fresh mango smoothie on a hot day – and the beauty of this dessert is that the fresh fruit remains the star.
Last week while fetching groceries, I found these wonderfully vibrant calypso mangoes and knew straight away that this week’s entry would be created around them.

from the december 2009 issue of
delicious. magazine
2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
1 cup mascarpone cheese
¾ cup pure (thin) cream
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 – 3 tbsp coconut liqueur, to taste
2 tbsp flaked coconut
4 ripe mangoes, peeled and very finely sliced
rum caramel
1 cup caster sugar
2 shots rum

Preheat your oven to 170°C.  Grease four small loose-bottomed tart pans (mine were 12cm in diameter).
Line the pans with pastry and trim away any excess.
Prick the bases with a fork and chill for 20 minutes.
mango tartlets with coconut & rum caramel | table twenty eight
Once chilled, line the tarts with baking paper and fill with pastry weights (or uncooked rice).
Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 15 minutes until golden and dry.  Set aside to cool completely.
Meanwhile, for the caramel, stir the sugar and half a cup of water in a small pan over low heat for a few minutes until the sugar has dissolved.
Increase the heat to medium and simmer, without stirring, for 15-18 minutes until the syrup starts to turn a light golden colour.
Remove from the heat and carefully add the rum.  Add three tablespoons of water and swirl to combine.
Return to low heat and gently swirl the pan until smooth.  Keep at room temperature while you assemble the tartlets.
mango tartlets with coconut & rum caramel | table twenty eight
Beat the mascarpone, cream, sugar and coconut liqueur together until soft peaks begin to form.  Refrigerate until required.
Toast the coconut flakes in a dry frypan over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, for a few minutes until golden and just starting to brown.
To serve, fill the tart shells with mascarpone cream to just below the rim.  Arrange the mango slices over the top in a spiral pattern.
Drizzle with rum caramel, sprinkle with coconut and serve.

mango tartlets with coconut & rum caramel | table twenty eight

mini steak, onion & ale pies

mini steak, onion & ale pies | table twenty eight
::  For most of us, the ingredients for a great Australia Day are simple – an esky filled with ice cold beer and a hot barbeque stacked with steak; a swimming pool of any form (paddling pools are entirely acceptable for young and old alike); and finally, Triple J’s hottest 100 countdown providing the day’s soundtrack.
Meat pies are a quintessential Australian love.
All over the country, bakeries compete for the title of ‘Best Pie in Aus’ and pride themselves on the flakiest pastry and most meltingly tender fillings.
We take our meat pies seriously here…
mini steak, onion & ale pies | table twenty eight
So to mark this year’s occasion, I’ve combined the classic flavours of steak and onion, added some local Little Creatures’ ale and shrunk the whole lot down to pint-sized party pies.
Tender pieces of beef, falling apart in a hearty onion gravy and surrounded by crispy, buttery pastry – topped, of course, with a generous squeeze of tomato sauce or ketchup…  I challenge you just to eat one!

makes 24 mini pies
1 kg rump steak, cut into 2cm cubes
¼ cup plain flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
⅓ cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 eschallots (french shallots), peeled and quartered
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
330ml bottle of ale
1 cup beef stock
1 packet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten

Toss the beef chunks in the seasoned flour, shaking off the excess.
Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  In two batches, cook the beef for a few minutes until browned, turning to prevent the meat from sticking to the pan (add extra oil if needed).  Remove the beef and set aside.
Return the pan to medium heat and add the remaining oil, onion, eschallots, garlic and thyme.  Stir for five minutes until the onions have softened.
mini steak, onion & ale pies | table twenty eight
Return the beef to the pan and stir through the tomato paste and worcestershire sauce.  Add the ale and beef stock, bring to the boil and then reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for an hour on very low, stirring occasionally (use a heat disperser to ensure even coverage and prevent the bottom of from burning).
After an hour, uncover the sauce and simmer until thick, dark and reduced by about half.  Taste and season well, then set aside to cool.
Preheat your oven to 200°C and lightly oil two 12-hole muffin pans.
Remove the puff pastry from its packet and cover with a cool, damp tea towel while you work with each individual sheet.
To make the pie cases, use a small bowl as a template to cut 8cm circles from the pastry sheets and mould into the bases of the muffin pans.
mini steak, onion & ale pies | table twenty eight
Spoon the beef mixture into the pastry shells, filling to one centimetre below the top.
Cut out smaller circles of pastry to use as pie tops.  Brush the rims of the pie cases with beaten egg and top with pastry, pressing to seal.
Brush the tops with egg and make an incision on each to allow steam to escape (this is an important step if you don’t want pie mixture popping the tops off and oozing out the side)…
Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden and crispy.
Remove the cooked pies from the pans and place to cool on a baking rack, before serving with plenty of tomato sauce and cold beer.
Happy Australia day!

mini steak, onion & ale pies | table twenty eight


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