Category Archives: Entrees, Hors D'Oevres

Savoury Polenta Cake


This is a great recipe for Christmas entertaining. It’s as easy to make as a batch of muffins, and the batter can be baked in a cake tin and cut into squares for serving, or as little mini muffins. This recipe comes from my lovely friend Stephanie who first made it for me. It’s really versatile… you can use the basic batter (ie the ingredients below up to and including the eggs) and create any type of savoury cake you like by changing the ingredients that come after it.

  • 1.5 cups polenta
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for the top
  • 2 eggs
  • Two tablespoons chopped fresh mixed herbs such as chives, parsley, basil and dill (use a single herb or a mixture of at least two).
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons black pitted olives, sliced
  • 1 cup mixed small diced vegetables, such as zucchini, capsicum, cherry tomatoes, corn kernels (I like to use one red and one green vegetable to get some nice colours going)

Preheat the oven to 180c.

Grease and flour a square medium size cake or brownie pan, or a 24 capacity mini muffin tin (if using the muffin tin I just grease with a little olive oil). Don’t worry too much about the size of the cake tin, as long as it’s not very large or small it will be fine.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, polenta and baking powder. Add the vegetables, olives, shallots and herbs and combine. In another bowl mix the eggs, milk, yoghurt, oil and cheese and beat with a fork until combined. Add to the other ingredients and mix gently to combine. You should have a batter of muffin-type consistency but if it’s dry, add a little extra milk. Don’t overmix.

Pour into the cake tin or muffin tin and sprinkle some extra parmesan cheese on the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes for a full cake or 15-20 minutes for mini muffins. Test by inserting a spaghetti stick or skewer into the middle.

Allow to cool a little then turn out. If making the cake, cut into squares and top with anything that takes your fancy – I like a little basil leaf and halved cherry tomatoes. You could wrap each mini muffin in a sliver of prosciutto or just scatter with some chopped herbs.




Chorizo Meatballs

I am not a big fan of chorizo. I like the flavour, but it always makes me feel a little ill. I think it’s the combination of cured meat and the rich spices and flavours.

I thought if I took the basic chorizo ingredients – pork, garlic, paprika – and made meatballs I’d end up with a fresher take on it. I was right. These are delicious and contain far fewer nasties than your favourite chorizo sausage. Barbecuing or grilling them is a healthier option than pan frying too.

You could serve them in many ways: as part of tapas, in a paella, in a pasta sauce, with grilled prawns and salad, or make very small ones and serve with toothpicks as finger food. I like them with fresh ingredients to balance out the richness – pureed peas or broad beans for example.

Makes about 12 meatballs.

  • 500 grams pork mince
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 teaspoons good quality smoky paprika (get some from a market or specialty food store, it will be much better than the supermarket option)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until well combined. Form into balls of your desired size and cook on a hot barbecue, turning to cook on all sides. Drain on paper towel. I like a squeeze of lemon juice over them when done.



Porcini, Fontina Cheese And Truffle Oil Arancini

Arancini is another of those Italian foods that arose from a desire to use up leftovers – in this case risotto. And in the same way I will put aside bread to go stale in order to make panzanella, I will make a batch of risotto for the specific purpose of making arancini.

These crumbed fried balls of risotto and cheese are indulgent and perfect for a special occasion. They are wonderful with pre-dinner drinks, or a Saturday afternoon wine and catch up with some friends.

Fontina cheese is not common but worth seeking out for it’s heavenly melting qualities. And the truffle oil – while expensive – adds an amazing layer of flavour and you only need to use a tiny amount.

Step 1: make the risotto. I have adapted my baked porcini mushroom recipe – well, the only addition really being a drizzle of truffle oil.

  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 15 g packet porcini mushrooms (from delis, continental grocers, etc)
  • 200 ml chicken or veg stock
  • 150 ml boiled water
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • About a tablespoon picked fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt & pepper
  • About a dessertspoon of butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon white truffle oil (from specialty food stores)

Put the mushrooms in a small bowl or jug and pour over the boiled water. Cover and leave to reconstitute for 5-10 minutes.  Put the rice, garlic, and bay leaf in a baking dish. Drain the mushroom and reserve the water they were soaking in – this is full of flavour and must not be wasted.   Chop the mushrooms roughly and add to the baking dish.  Pour over the mushroom water and stock, and  dot with the butter. Cover and bake for about 25 minutes, checking and stirring around at least once throughout and adding more stock or water if necessary.  Remove, and stir through the thyme, parmesan and truffle oil.

Step 2:  Make the balls. Let the risotto cool. Take some fontina cheese and cut into 5cm approx squares. Spoon some risotto mixture into the palm of your hand and flatten.  Place a piece of cheese in the middle, then squish to make a ball. If the cheese isn’t covered over completely, patch up with a bit more risotto. If the risotto mixture is too dry, mix a beaten egg through. If it’s too moist and sticky, mix some plain flour through until you get a workable consistency.

Step 3: Coating & frying. When you’ve finished making the balls, beat 2 eggs in a shallow bowl, and fill another shallow bowl with breadcrumbs. Dip the balls in the egg, then roll in the crumbs and set aside on a plate. When they are all done, heat some light olive oil in a fry pan, and fry over a medium heat in batches, turning to cook on all sides. Drain on paper towels, and serve immediately. You could make these in advance, freezing them when they are cooled and heating up in a medium oven for 20 minutes.

Eggplant Chips with Spicy Yoghurt Dip

These baked eggplant chips are perfect to serve when friends pop round for a pre-Xmas drink.  I made these for some of my ladies last weekend and they were lovely with the white wine and some sunshine.

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 cups Panko breadcrumbs (from Asian grocers, or Asian food section of supermarket)
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 1 egg
  • Dash of milk
  • Dash of tamari or soy sauce
  • Salt & pepper
  • Light olive oil

Yoghurt dressing:

  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, pounded in a pestle and mortar
  • 1 small clove garlic

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Slice the eggplant into long, thick pieces. They don’t have to be perfect, its ok to slice them on the diagonal and have different sized/shaped ones.

In one bowl large enough to fit the eggplant slices, combine the breadcrumbs, sesame seeds and salt and pepper.  In another bowl, lightly whisk the egg, milk and tamari until combined.

Get a baking tray ready – drizzle with olive oil to coat the base.

Dip the eggplant in the egg mixture, coat in the breadcrumb mix, and place in the baking tray.  You might need 2 trays.  When all done, drizzle over more oil.  Eggplant soaks up a lot of oil, so you need to use a decent amount or it will dry out. You don’t want it swimming in oil though.  About a third to half a cup in total will be about right.

Put the baking dishes into the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, turning once, and adding a little more oil if drying out.

While the eggplant is cooking, prepare the yoghurt dip.  In a bowl, combine the yoghurt and crushed coriander seeds. Grate a garlic clove into the mixture, and stir to combine.  Put in a serving bowl and serve on a platter with the warm eggplant chips.

Prawn, Basil and Chilli Tofu Skin Rolls

Flattened prawns fried in tofu skins is one of my favourite things about yum cha, so when I saw tofu skins today at the Asian grocer I decided to try and make them.

The tofu skins are very delicate to work with and I didn’t think the result would justify the effort, but it did.  However I’m not sure I’d ever want to make lots of them!

Makes 3-4 rolls

  • 1 packet tofu skins
  • 6-8 green prawns
  • Chilli paste or sauce
  • Basil leaves
  • Oil for frying (I use canola)

Peel and devein the prawns. Place them on a board, and cover with a piece of baking paper. Using a meat mallet, bash them a little until they are flattened, but still in one piece.

Carefully remove as much of the tofu skins as you’ll need – about 2 x 20cm piece for each roll.  Soak in water for about a minute, no longer or they will start to disintegrate. Carefully lift out, and spread on a clean surface, making a double layer.

Smear a piece with some chilli, place 1 or 2 basil leaves on top of the chilli and spread two prawns on top.  Carefully fold into a little parcel.  Don’t worry if it appears loose and messy.  Patch up any tears with spare tofu skin pieces that have probably come away.

Heat the oil and fry each roll a few minutes on each side, drain and serve.

And now, a confession… the real reason I wanted to make these was so I could post this photo of the tofu skin packet:

Yes, very mature.

Classic Bruschetta

Do you do what I do, and correct people in cafes who order “brushetta”? No? Never mind.  Perhaps my idiosyncratic intolerance of this common mispronunciation is the reason I prefer to make it at home.

Get hold of the best quality tomatoes and bread you can find.

  • 1 sourdough baguette (or a similar good quality hard bread)
  • 3-4 ripe tomatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • handful of basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • sea salt and cracked pepper

Step 1: Prepare the topping.  Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the pulp, otherwise your topping will be far too runny.  Chop the tomato up into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Finely chop the garlic, or do what I do and grate it using a microplaner straight over the tomatoes.  Chop the basil and add, along with about a teaspoon each of balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Put aside.

Step 2: Prepare the bread.  Heat the oven to 170 c.  Slice the baguette on the diagonal, brush each slice with some olive oil, and place on a baking tray.  Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Remove and rub each piece with the other garlic clove sliced in half.

Place the topping on each slice, drizzle over a little extra oil, season with extra salt and pepper, and serve, preferably with a glass of chianti.

Stuffed Calamari

I was talking to my mate Campbel the other night, she recently moved to Darwin with her hubby Matt for work.  She’s an Adelaide/Melbourne girl and is missing winter comfort food, she told me. It was a timely reminder for me – don’t forget your northern friends and neighbours in winter!  So I thought with the imminent official arrival of winter, I’d take us right back to summer with a seafood dish that’s finished on the barbie. While this dish does sing of summer flavours and ingredients, I have to say it went down very well on a cold Melbourne night last night with a glass of red on the couch watching the footy.

This dish is incredibly tasty, and if you’ve been intimidated in the past by cooking calamari, don’t be. Its very easy.  Get your fishmonger to do the hard work of cleaning the calamari for you.

This is from Tessa Kiros’ “Twelve” book. I’vehalved the quantities and added my own touch at the end: throwing the calamari on the barbie to give them a chargrilled finish.   If you’re in warmer climes, you can do this all on the barbecue.  Just put the oven dish on the barbie, turned up to high, and close the lid for the 30 minutes of baking time, then remove the calamari and finish on the barbie as below.

  • 3 calamari with tubes about 15-20 cm long
  • 6 medium sized green prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 anchovy fillets, chopped into small pieces
  • About 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup white wine

Preheat the oven to 200 c

Ask your fishmonger to clean the calamari and separate the tubes from the tentacles, but keep the tentacles.

When you get them home, wash them well.  Discard the piece with the transparent bone, if the fishmonger has given you that as well.

Finely chop the tentacles and the prawn meat (you can pulse this in a food processor if you wish) and mix in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, garlic, anchovy and parsley.  Add some pepper, you shouldn’t need salt as the anchovies are salty enough.  Add the egg and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and mix well.

Stuff the mixture into the cleaned squid tubes with a narrow dessert spoon, and seal with a metal skewer.

Put a flameproof oven dish on the stove and heat the remaining olive oil. Fry the calamari on both sides until brown.  Add the wine and about half a cup of water and transfer to the oven.

Cook for 30 minutes and turn them over once.

Remove the skewers and brown them all over on the barbecue. Pour over any excess pan juices, and a squeeze of lemon.


This is absolutely gagging for a glass of reisling. A personal favourite is the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Reisling, which runs to about $20 at Dan’s. Lovely mineral and citrus flavours with well-balanced acid to cut through the richness of the prawns without overpowering the fresh lightness of the squid.

Another excellent and slightly cheaper option is Pewsey Vale’s Eden Valley Reisling, which can be had for less than $15. Slightly more floral than the Leeuwin, it’s also an excellent example of a minerally reisling with a lovely clean finish.

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