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Here’s to Ladies who Lunch

17 Jan

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started this post. To be honest, I’ve been feeling quite nervous about it…Now I know how Thorpey felt before his big comeback swim.

What? Too dramatic?

Ok so I may be slightly exaggerating, however now that a few people have kindly reminded me that I haven’t posted anything in a good few (5) months, I’m really feeling the pressure to perform, so go easy on me will ya?

A lot of little things went amiss in my life in the haze of the pre-Christmas rush and silly season celebrations – sleep, exercise, cooking, writing… In retrospect, I now realize it’s all the things that keep me sane.

So between the mixed platter of crazy busy times, sprinkled with the post-hiatus ‘intimidation’, topped off with a generous ‘Jamie Oliver’ dollop of sheer laziness, Little Miss Piggie has been neglected and, it appears, abandoned! BUT, we’re now in 2012, and I’m predicting this year to be unsurpassably sensational!

::I don’t really buy into the whole ‘New Year’s Resolution’ philosophy…

To be frank, I’m not into setting myself up for failure. I think goals are great, imperative in fact, but I don’t really like the idea of having one per year, or a year to do it – far too limiting & sooo cliché, in my opinion 😉

In lieu of the gratuitous ‘New Year’s Resolution’, I prefer to write a list of things I would like to achieve (often ludicrously overambitious) – not necessarily within the year, just in general. You know the aspirations you have swirling in the back of your mind, but can rarely garner to courage to verbalise? Well, that’s my list. I start a new one every year in the back of my diary and add to it as new aspirations transpire. The beginning of the list is usually carried over from the previous years’…but I try not to get too hung up on them. It’s more for inspiration than a ‘To do’ list.

The reason I’m boring you with my idealistic theories is because my 2012 list is topped with the encouragement to ‘WRITE MORE’ which means I am going to try to pay a little more love and attention to Little Miss Piggie, not just this year, but for as long as she lives. So let’s see how I go!

::Ladies who Lunch

Way back in December 2011 I hosted a lunch for a few close girlfriends. We were blessed with a beautiful day in an otherwise June-like week of weather, so we dined on the deck, drank gluttonously (or maybe that was just me), and eagerly discussed ways to become eternal ‘Ladies who lunch’. In all, the afternoon was a raging success! How very modest of me!

As a result I have come up with a ‘Ladies who Lunch’ menu – one to add to the endless array discoverable on Google. This could really be used for any summer lunch or soiree, and the individual elements are obviously delicious enough to be served alone.

{TO DRINK}

{Posh summer punch}

Seriously delicious, even if a wee bit potent! Adapted from the cookbook Delicious More. Please.

What you’ll need

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Posh Summer Punch

1 bottle of dry white wine

1 bottle of champagne

1/4 cup castor sugar

2 ripe peaches or nectarines

1 red apple, cut into thin wedges

1 orange, halved and thinly sliced

A handful of frozen raspberries

Seeds of 1 pomegranate

Handful of mint leaves

1 cup of vodka or gin

Soda water, to serve (optional)

Method

Combine wine and sugar in a large jug and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add the champagne, fruit, mint and vodka or gin, then stir gently to combine. Leave at room temperature for up to 2 hours (or as long as possible) to infuse.

Top with soda water to taste and serve punch over ice.

{ENTREE)

{Zucchini and feta tart}

Incredibly easy and tasty. A bit of a surprise hit really. Adapted from Gourmet Traveller.

Zucchini and feta tart

Ingredients

Serves 6-8

250 gm frozen butter puff pastry (or enough to)

2-3 zucchini, thinly sliced on a mandolin

150 g  feta, coarsely crumbled – GT recipe suggests Bulgarian sheep feta, however just used Danish feta and it was fine

150g fresh ricotta

¼ cup coarsely chopped dill

1 lemon, finely grated rind only

1 clove garlic, crushed

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200C. Remove pastry from freezer and allow to defrost enough to work with. Be careful not to leave it too long or the pastry will become too soft and sticky to work with. Use enough pastry to line a lightly greased 11.5cm x 34cm loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin, folding in any excess.
  2. Once you have lined the tin with pastry, cover the pastry with baking paper and weigh it down with pastry weights or rice and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove paper and weights and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside until needed.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the sliced zucchini, crumbled feta, dill, lemon rind and garlic in a bowl and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. You can also add a touch of olive oil if you like.
  4. Once tart base has cooled slightly, spread with a thin layer of ricotta
  5. Layer the zucchini mixture on top of the ricotta and bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
  6. Serve tart warm or at room temperature as an entrée.

{MAIN}

{Prosciutto-wrapped salmon with saffron and herb rice recipe}

Adapted from deliciousmagazine.co.uk

Whilst this didn’t make an appearance at lunch, I have been promising it forever and cooked it over Christmas for another impressed crowd, hence I thought it fitting to include in the ultimate summer lunch menu. Just to make it clear, I’m not blowing my own trumpet here; this recipe really is the ‘little black dress’ of dinner party recipes. Foolproof I tell ya! That’s why I’ve been so hesitant to give it away!

Ingredients

Serves 6-8

350ml fresh chicken stock

½ tsp saffron (optional – I personally don’t think it’s necessary)

25g butter

50g shallots, finely chopped

175g long grain rice

¼ tsp salt

3 tbs chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, tarragon and chives

Finely grated zest of ½ lemon and

2 tsp lemon juice

2 x 550g thick pieces of skinned salmon fillet, taken from a large fish

8-10 slices thin prosciutto

4 fresh bay leaves

2 tbsp olive oil

Kitchen string

Method

  1. Put the stock and saffron (if using) into a pan, bring to the boil and keep hot over a low heat. Melt the butter in a small pan, add the shallots and fry gently until soft. Stir in the rice, stock and salt and bring to the boil. Stir, cover, then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove and set aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Uncover and fork through the chopped herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200°C/fan180°C/gas 6 and put a large non-stick baking sheet into the oven to heat up. Trim the salmon fillets to the same size, then season on both sides with salt and freshly ground pepper. Spoon the rice mixture in an even layer over 1 salmon fillet and press down well. Cover with the other salmon fillet.
  4. Wrapping the salmon. NB. This can be a little tricky. You may find an easier way to do this, however this is my suggested method
    • Lay a piece of baking paper on a board
    • Cut 4-6 pieces of kitchen string long enough to wrap around the salmon and secure. Lay kitchen string at intervals along the board.
    • Place 2 prosciutto slices on the board (over the top of kitchen string) with the ends slightly overlapping to make 1 long strip. Arrange next to this, another 2 slices, slightly overlapping as before. Repeat with the remaining prosciutto.
    • Lay the salmon down the centre of the prosciutto sheet and bring up the slices to enclose the salmon, pressing down gently.

    Note – use as much prosciutto as you see fit. I tend to go a little lighter on with the prosciutto as the saltiness can be overpowering, however it’s up to you.

  5. Arrange the bay leaves on top. Tie string at intervals to secure (refer to picture above if you’re unsure.
  6. Carefully slide the salmon parcel onto the hot baking tray. Drizzle with the olive oil and a little lemon juice and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes for just cooked salmon, or a little longer if you prefer.
  7. Remove the salmon from the oven, cover and set aside to rest for 5-10 minutes. Slice thickly and serve with a simple garden salad or fennel and blood orange salad

{DESSERT}

{Eton mess with pomegranate and strawberries}

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s ’30 Minute Meals’

Jamie's Eton Mess

Ingredients

400g strawberries

1 Pomegranate

1 heaped tbsp golden caster sugar

1 orange

2 tsp vanilla paste or extract

Splash of Pimm’s, Cointreau or even champagne!

250g Greek yoghurt (alternatively you can use half and half of Greek yoghurt and double cream/whipped thickened cream for a little added naughtiness)

1 x 8 pack of meringue nests (purchase from the supermarket)

Couple of sprigs of fresh mint

Method

  1. Slice the strawberries and put them into a bowl with the sugar. Grate over the orange zest, and then squeeze in the juice from ½ the orange. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla paste or extract, then mash and mix everything together with a fork.
  2. Halve the pomegranate and squeeze the juice & a few seeds from one half into the bowl. Add a good splash of whichever alcohol you’re using and mix again. Leave to infuse for 10-15 mins
  3. Dollop 2 tablespoons of yoghurt/cream on a platter and spread out, add the strawberry mixture, then crumble over half the meringue nests, mix to achieve a marbled effect. Repeat the process, starting with the yoghurt/cream mix, adding layers of strawberries and meringue. Mix again, then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and torn mint leaves and take to the table with the rest of the meringue nests – crumble these over just before you serving.

Note – I topped the Eton Mess with a few slices of nectarine I had leftover from the punch – it was divine!

That’s it guys and gals. I’d love to hear what recipes you’ve used for a summer lunch or dinner party!

Lastly, thanks to my lovely friends and family who have encouraged me to get back online and share some more anecdotes and recipes. It means a lot to hear that you enjoy reading LittleMissPiggie! Best wishes for a marvellous and tasty 2012.

Miss Piggie x

Bun-Bo-Yum-Bo

24 Jul

Ca va mes amis?

I’m sorry – I have been seriously neglectful of late! Between a trip to the snow, a few late nights in the office and some busy weekends I’ve been eating far more take away than I care to admit!

I even missed Bastille Day! I was planning to get all Frenchy, reinvent Little Miss Piggie as ‘Le Petit Cochon’ and whip up my favourite French fare to share with you but instead I was busy drinking red wine and playing board games in front of the fire in country Victoria! Do you blame me?!

Fortunately the recipe I plan to share with you today requires very little effort and time and the dividends you get from this baby make it a worthwhile investment (banker chat, no big deal, I wonder If the Fin Review needs a food writer?!)

A bit of background… I work in Surry Hills, which feels like the epicentre of Sydney’s food scene. This has its benefits and its drawbacks. I know, I know, I shouldn’t complain, but when you have such a plethora of options and are particularly bad at decision-making (as I am), this happens to pose a serious problem!!!

So it seems strange that of all the places at which we could eat, we often end up at The Naughty Chef; a dingy-looking, funky-smelling Vietnamese café on Elizabeth St.

The drawcard? Bun-Bo-Xao.

I was introduced to this Vietnamese salad early this year by a work colleague and have been chowing it down at every chance ever since (usually every Friday lunchtime!)

In fact, I got over waiting for Friday lunchtimes to come around and decided try to recreate it myself ‘a la maison’…

I recommend you try The Naughty Chef’s bun-bo-xao if you get the chance, but if not, try mine…ok, so I can’t quite claim this as my recipe, it’s more a Luke Nguyen / Naughty Chef hybrid, facilitated by moi!). It’s super easy, deliriously delicious and I’m going to take a punt and say it’s pretty healthy too(if that’s what your into!!)- three big ticks from me!!!

Not quite Porgie’s Bun-Bo-Xao

  • 500g sirloin or rump steak
  • 3 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 clove crushed garlic
  • 1 tsp finely chopped lemongrass (I’ve used lemongrass from a jar before when the real deal wasn’t available)
  • 2tbs olive oil
  • 400g thin rice vermicelli
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Handful of mint leaves, torn
  • 4 tbs chopped coriander
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber, julienned
  • Half a red onion, finely sliced
  • 1 lemon, quartered

Nuoc Cham20110724-042801.jpg

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 3 chillies, finely chopped
  • 5 – 7 tbsp fish sauce (to taste)
  • 7 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Pour the fish sauce, crushed garlic and lemongrass over the steak. Cover and marinate in the fridge until ready to cook.

Make the nuoc cham by grinding garlic and chillies in a mortar and pestle until it resembles a thick paste.Combine the fish sauce, sugar, water and lemon juice in a separate bowl and stir thoroughly until sugar has dissolved. Add garlic & chilli paste and mix. Set aside.

Soak the noodles in boiling water for a couple of minutes. When soft, drain and rinse with cold water then chop up with kitchen scissors. Once drained, separate the noodles, vegetables and herbs between 4 large bowls.

Heat oil in frying pan over high heat until very hot. Place whole steak/s in and sear. Cook to your liking – I prefer it to be on the rarer side! Once cooked, allow to rest for a few minutes then thinly slice the meat and divide amongst the bowls.

Pour over some nuoc cham (adding more to taste if you wish) and serve with a wedge of lemon and a sprinkling of fried onion and crushed peanuts.

Yum…now I’m hungry for Naughty Chef! This is a perfect recipe for a fresh lunch or light dinner!

Next up – I’m searching for a good winter recipe to share with you – I’ve been reprimanded by my younger brother for not having gotten around to this already – sorry master! So in his words, I’m going to ‘fix that’!!!

Also – I’m heading home to the beautiful North Coast in a few weeks and hoping to pop in to my favourite local – Harvest Café at Newrybar for a meal! Stay tuned for a review!

Little Miss Piggie xx