Saturday, August 21, 2010

Grilled Fennel

Yeah! So simple. So good! So TASTY!

Caramalized fennel slabs. Gotta like it.

No "real" recipe as this is pretty darned simple.

Slice your large fennel bulb into 1/2 inch thick slabs.

Rub some olive oil or some bacon fat into the slabs. Grill them (or pan fry) till they are caramelized. Note: If grilling you'll want to move them off the direct heat occasionally so they don't burn.

When they are done, they are done!

I served last night's grilled fennel as a side dish to a sausage burger. The burger was topped with cheese, avocado, bacon, and lettuce. Needless to say, it was devoured quite quickly.

Try getting your mouth around this:
thick burger

See the grilled fennel slab next to the burger? Yeah, darned good tucka!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Ratatouille with Fennel and Okra

And I served it with feta crumbled over the top and some grilled venison sausages w/okra on the side.

Plates were emptied! Quickly! Very very tasty.

Full disclosure: I've never made ratatouille until I made this. My first try I knocked out of the park!

I got the idea for making ratatouille from a great post at a wonderful food blog. She's a professional chef and teaches cooking classes full-time. Friendly and she answers comments and questions. You can find Helen at:

Beyond Salmon

and her ratatouille is here:

Beyond Salmon's Ratatouille

Go have a quick look and you'll see where I got the inspiration for my Ratatouille. I know that fennel isn't a common ingredient in Ratatouille but it's in season down here in South Oz and very inexpensive. Okra is in season here too, and it IS a staple veggie in Cajun cooking commonly used in gumbos.

And I do apologize for using canned corn. Fresh corn cobs are very pricey down here due to the 10 year ongoing drought. When you use canned corn make sure the ingredients are corn, water, salt. Nothing else. No chemical crap!

A quick word about fresh okra. When you are selecting okra to buy, you want to buy smaller rather than larger. The larger ones can have a "woody" texture. You also want to test a tip or two. If the tip snaps off then they are fresh. If it bends completely over, then that bin of okra is not very fresh. Here's what I mean:

Give the tip a little bend like this:
testing okra 01

And the tip should snap off thusly if it is fresh:
testing okra 02

Anyways, on with the recipe:

Fennel and Okra Ratatouille with Venison & Okra on the side

What you need:
One large fennel bulb
12 to 16 small, fresh okras
1 large onion, rough chopped
One 12 ounce can of corn kernels
2 or 3 cloves crushed garlic
1 large zucchini
1 can crushed tomatoes
1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
sea salt
olive oil
a bit of crumbled feta

4 mini venison sausages (2 per person)
12 to 16 small, fresh okras --in addition to the ones going into the ratatouille
olive oil
sea salt
small handful fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves

What you do:

First, peel and slice the zucchini. Try to aim for 1/2 inch thick slices. Sprinkle the slices with sea salt, toss to coat, and let them set on paper towels for 15 minutes or so --this is to draw moisture out of the zucchini. I do this with eggplant, but it was the first time I'd done it with zucchini. Worked like a charm.

See? Have a look:
prepared zucchini

Prepare the okra: cut the tips and stems off, then cut each okra into 3 pieces. Don't worry about the sticky stuff as that is normal. Fry them up with a bit of olive oil for a minute or two so they are just browned. Set aside to drain and cool. This is what they look like before lightly frying:
chopped okra

Slice your fennel bulb into 1/4 inch thick slices. If you need to halve or even quarter it to facilitate the slicing then be all means go ahead and do that, no worries.

fennel cut in half

fennel sliced

Now give your onion a rough chopping. Don't make the pieces small otherwise they'll be lost in the ratatouille.

By now the zucchini slices should have lost enough moisture. Give them a quick pat with paper towels and fry them in a bit of olive oil till the just start to brown. A minute or two each side should do the trick. Set them aside to drain.

In the same pot you'll be cooking the ratatouille (I recommend an enameled dutch oven) put the sliced fennel and chopped onion. A bit of olive oil and fry em up. You want the fennel and onion to just caramelize. Once they've caramelized then add the garlic, basil and rosemary; continue to fry for another 30 seconds.

Now you get to de-glaze the pot. Add the liquid from the can of corn to the pot and stir it around so the fennel and onion aren't stuck at all. Put the lid on and simmer on low for 5 minutes.

Add the can of tomatoes and the corn. Simmer for another ten minutes. Now add the zucchini and okra. Put the lid on and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let it sit in the dutch oven while you get the sausages and the rest of the okra cooked.

If you want this dish totally vegetarian, then just don't use sausages at this point, no worries.

Hopefully your dutch oven should now look something similar to this:
ratatouille in pot

Cut the rest of the okra into thirds, as you did for the ratatouille. Put the cut okra and the venison sausages into a wok with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle a bit of sea salt, and toss in the coriander leaves:
venison and veg

Fry it up till the sausages are done. Toss/stir regularly so nothing sticks. Once they are done you can plate it up!

Spoon the ratatouille onto a plate, sprinkle with crumbled feta, and put two sausages plus some fried okra onto the plate:

It's easier to make than it sounds and OH SO TASTY!

Again, a big thanks to Beyond Salmon for posting her wonderful ratatouille recipe and guidelines for making it! Thanks Helen!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bacon Wrapped Bananas with Chocolate Sauce

And doesn't that just sound AWESOMELY delicious? I know it does "it" for me! Seriously, what dish can't be improved by adding bacon?

I got the idea for this from a yoga teacher in New Zealand who has a cool food blog called Couscous & Consciousness. In one of her posts she asked folks about what trio or trios of food combination go well together. One of the ones I mentioned was bacon wrapped chocolate that gets battered and deep-fried. She thought it sounded ok but suggested some with bananas to go along with the bacon and chocolate.

Hence, this beauty of a recipe was born!

I made it last night, we all loved it. And that includes BIL who has a very fussy palate. In fact, he licked the plate clean!

Dingo Dave's Original Bacon Wrapped Bananas with Chocolate sauce with thanks to Couscous & Consciousness for inspiration.

What you need:

For the bananas and bacon:
One banana per person
1 to 3 slices of bacon per banana depending on size of slice

For the chocolate sauce:
175 grams of dark chocolate --that's 6.141592654 or pi+3 ounces
2 heaping tbsp butter
1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup cream port (or regular port, or a sherry variety)
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/8 tsp cayenne powder (I usually double or triple this, but that's for when it's just me)

What you do:

Put everything for the chocolate sauce in a small, thick-bottomed saucepan. Your saucepan should now look like this:
stuff for chocolate sauce

Put the saucepan on the lowest heat possible and stir or whisk it while it heats. Make sure nothing sticks to the bottom and that it's well mixed. This should only take a couple of minutes.

Turn the heat off and cover it.

Now to assemble the bacon and bananas. Ummmmmm, this is pretty simple, just wrap the bacon around the bananas. If you need to secure the bacon with toothpicks the go for it.
bacon wrapped bananas raw

Then cook them till the bacon is done to your liking. Be gentle when turning them as you don't want to bananas to break apart.
bacon wrapped bananas cooked

Remove the toothpicks if you used them and liberally ladle the sauce on top!
bacon wrapped bananas with chocolate sauce
Notice how I used one dark plate and one light plate so that the color balance in the photo is way off? Yeah, I did that on purpose. Maybe.

And the obligatory closeup:
bacon wrapped bananas with chocolate sauce closeup

Use a sharp knife and a fork for eating. Why a sharp knife? So that you don't mush down the banana as you cut a piece.

You'll have lots of leftover sauce, I'm sure you'll think of some use for it.

Oh, next time I'm going to roll the bananas in brown sugar before wrapping the bacon around them!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Fennel and Prawn Risotto with Prosciutto

A risotto is actually a very easy dish to make so if you've never made one cus you think it's hard; it is not! Just go for it! And don't be snobbish about using ONLY arborio rice. You don't need to do that.

Yes, I know I've just offended millions of untold readers who are risotto aficionados. Tough. Tough, I say. I've made it with arborio, jasmine, basmati, long-grain, short-grain, medium grain, and probably a few others. Heck I even did one with half basmati and half long-grain brown rice.

You know what? They all tasted great. The key (for me at least) is to dry fry the rice a bit first so it goes from translucent to opaque, THEN start on the liquid it'll be cooking in.

I used prosciutto in this because I got a large, unsliced slab of it half off at the shops and after I finished thin slicing it I had a small piece leftover that just wouldn't go through my meat slicer.

Well, it probably would have but I doubt I'dve had any fingertips left for typing.

Obviously, a piece of ham or bacon can be substituted for the prosciutto, no worries.

You'll also notice that this risotto is not heavily seasoned as I really wanted the fennel flavour to stand up and be noticed. It was.

What you need:
1 hunk of prosciutto --about the weight of a full sized bacon rasher

1/2 of a large fennel bulb

1 cup of rice --any kind, uncooked
1 or 2 tbsp olive oil
sprinkle of sea salt

2 litres (1/2 gallon) of MY fennel stock
handful of dried red capsicums, minced
fronds from the fennel bulb

250 grams (about 1/2 pound), peeled, cooked, deveined small prawns

What you do:

First, prepare the fennel. Remember what a fennel bulb looks like?
fennel bulb

Trim the stalks off.
fennel bulb no stalks

Hey look! A pile of fennel stalks with fronds!
fennel stalks

Trim the fronds off the fennel, you'll use the fronds for flavouring the risotto.
fennel fronds

Then chop up all the fronds. I don't need to show you a picture of that, do I? Thought not.

Next, cut your fennel bulb in half.
fennel cut in half

Notice that thick core? Some people cut that away. I don't. Especially since it'll be so soft and succulent in this dish.

Slice one of the fennel halves (or both, your choice). Try to make them about 5 mm or 1/4 of an inch thick.
fennel sliced

Then, for this dish, I cut the slices in half. You don't need a picture of that, right?

Take your hunk of prosciutto and trim the fat off. Keep the fat! Chop the fat up finely and put it in the large fry pan you'll be using for the risotto. Cook it till the fat is liquid and the little bits left over are browned.

Now add you sliced, cut, fennel bulb and cook it till it looks about like this.
fennel fried
Slightly caramelized, but not soggy. Stir whilst frying, of course.

Next, add the rice, the olive oil, and the sea salt. Fry it (whilst stirring) till the rice turns opaque. This'll only take a minute or two.

Now add 1 litre of the fennel stock, the minced fennel fronds, and the dried red capsicums (bell pepper). Give it all a good stir, turn the heat down to medium low. Cover it.

Check it in 5 minutes. Stir it. If the liquid isn't cooking down and being absorbed into the rice the turn the heat up a bit higher. Stir it every few minutes. Add more fennel stock as need until the rice is done and there's almost no liquid left.

The above paragraph should take around 18 minutes.

Turn the heat off and add the prawns, give it a mix. Put the lid on and let it stand for a few more minutes. Now's a good time to finely mince the rest of the prosciutto. Add the minced prosciutto, mix well.

Serve it up!
fennel prawn risotto

Obviously, you can modify and add ingredients to your heart's content. With this one though, I really wanted to get the fresh fennel flavour.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vegetable Soup Stock with Fennel

Fennel is in season down here in South Oz --probably most other parts of Oz too. You can get a full sized fennel bulb for $1.99 at the shops now.

fennel bulb

Needless to say, I've been doing a lot with fennel bulbs lately.

But what about those stalks that you trim off?
fennel stalks

SOUP STOCK! But this won't be a regular soup stock cus the fennel stalks impart a very mild licorice flavour to the stock so you need to season the stock appropriately.

Here's what I did for a very wonderfully flavoured soup stock.

What you need:

stalks from one fennel bulb --rough chopped
1 small onion --chopped
1 tbsp dried basil
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
2 cloves of crushed garlic
6 to 8 dried curry leaves
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 inch grated ginger root
1 gallon water (H2O)
sea salt to taste --you'll only want a tiny bit

What you do:

Chuck everything except the sea salt into a large pot. Bring to a boil, cover and low boil/high simmer for an hour. You don't want to lose more than an inch of water in the pot, so keep it covered and adjust the heat accordingly.

Let it cool a bit and then strain out all the chunky stuff. Give it a taste and salt to your taste. Only use a bit of salt at a time cus you do not want too much salt in this stock or you'll ruin it.

Let it cool completely and refrigerate till use. Or use it that day. I wouldn't keep it longer than a few days before using it though. I used mine the next day to make a fennel, prawn, and prosciutto risotto. Obviously, the stock was the liquid that the rice and other stuff was cooked in. Look for that recipe next as it was delish.

You can also separate the stock into smaller containers and freeze them till you need some, no worries.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Smoked Salmon Sushi Plus Fried Goodies

If any of you have been reading this blog or my other one for any length of time, then you know I'm a big fan of sushi. In all it's wonderful forms!


This post really isn't about how to make sushi as there are plenty of sites out there to show you how. This is more about what you can do with the sushi and what you can serve on the side.

Firstly, let's have a look at the first plate:
sushi plate 01

Very simple, no frills. Oh, each avocado slice is actually slightly pressed into the smoked salmon so it stays put. I had a bit of leftover rice so I made a small rice patty in the middle and tried to arrange the last few smoked salmon slices around it in a decorative fashion. Yeah, it doesn't show too well.

Next up is the second plate:
sushi plate 02

Again, simple. The rolls are just smoked salmon and avocado, whilst for the nigiri sushi I put the avocado UNDER the smoked salmon. Tricky, eh?

For the sushi fixin's I did the following (please note this pic was taken halfway through after I'd consolidated all the sushi onto one plate after our first grazing):
sushi with fixings

Serving the pickled Japanese veggies along with the wasabi paste in scallop shells made a nice presentation. Soy sauce was in a bowl, not a scallop shell.

But I didn't stop there. I also made two (2) fried dishes. One was some deep-fried rice puffs and the second was battered, fried, lingcod pieces. Instead of typing in what I did for the rice puffs, how's about you watch a video?

And if you want to see me make them really fast...

They didn't puff up as much as I'd hoped, but they were still darned tasty!
rice puffs fried

After I fried the rice puffs, I put them in a warm oven while I battered and fried the fish. I don't really need to tell you how to batter and fry fish, do I? No, didn't think so.

Just enjoy a pic of the finished pieces:
fried fish with rice puffs

Everything was served on platters on the table and folks just dug in to what they wanted. Sorry, no pics of the whole thing put together as we were too busy stuffing our faces.

Hope you enjoyed the pics today.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Easy Beef Stroganoff

Beef stroganoff is perhaps one of the easiest and tastiest dishes you can make. The only slightly pricey part of it is the meat, but if you shop smartly you can still feed four people for around a buck-fifty a plate.

I had to do some substitutions from my usual stroggie recipe as I was out of tomato paste and fairly low on cream. But don't worry, I persevered and figured out some quick and easy subs. I'll tell you what they were in a minute.

This is my basic, standard stroggie recipe. Sometimes I "go above and beyond" it, other times I leave it as is. Last night was the "leave as is" as Wifey-Poo wasn't up for anything too spicy.

Easy Beef Stroganoff

What you need:

500 grams (a bit over a pound) of lean ground beef
1 onion
500 grams mushrooms --the more, the better!
1/2 cup tomato paste
3 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp paprika
sea salt
1 1/2 to 2 cups cream
1/4 cup sour cream

I've used kangaroo, caribou, moose, or venison instead of beef --tasty!

I was out of tomato paste so I took 2 cups tomato puree and cooked it down till it was the consistency of tomato paste ---Ta-DA!

I also didn't have enough cream so I mixed full cream milk powder with an equal amount of water to make a nice, creamy milk slurry. Worked perfect.

What you do:

Brown the ground meat in a large skillet till it's half cooked. If you aren't using really lean meat then drain off some of the juices now. Add the onions and shrooms to the meat, sprinkle a bit of sea salt, and cook till the meat is done. By then the onions and shrooms will be done.

Add the tomato paste, dijon mustard, and the paprika. Give it a thorough stirring for a minute with the heat on low. Add the cream with the heat still on low. Stir it well to combine everything and let it simmer till the cream just starts to bubble. Turn the heat off and stir in the sour cream.

See? Wasn't that easy?

I served mine over pasta last night, specifically #56 fusilli. That means medium spirals. Very tasty, very easy, and it'll impress your friends.

beef stroganoff