Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Jasmin One

Jasmin One Lebanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon
I love cooking but sometimes the cupboards are bare, my inspiration is low or I am just not in the mood. The challenge is to find a cheap, reliable alternative. We are regulars at Jasmin One, a fantastic, family-friendly Lebanese restaurant in Punchbowl, NSW. We can feed our greedy family of 4 (2 adults, a 3 year old and a 1 year old) on 1 mixed plate with chips ($20: $15 for the mixed plate and $5 for the chips). The mixed plate, as the name suggests, contains a mix of meats and vegetables, but is carefully laid out so as to allow the hungry vegetarian (me!) clear, meat-free access to all vegetarian components. As pictured above left, the mixed plate includes baba ganoush, homous, marinated chickpeas, tabouleh, grilled chicken, grilled lamb, kibbeh, Lebanese sausage and the best falafels I've ever eaten (so far). This is accompanied by pickles and condiments, including homemade intense garlic sauce, chilli sauce and tomato sauce for the (unnecessary, but delicious) chips.

If the idea of taking food from a plate that also contains meat grosses you out or if you are catering for more vegetarians and less omnivores, they also do a vegetarian mixed plate (right), which substitutes the meat with extra falafels, more tabouleh and a generous helping of foule (delicious, lemony, garlicky fava beans). If you want to grab something smaller and portable, for $6 they do tasty falafel rolls, consisting of their excellent falafels, pickles, salad and tahini sauce wrapped in Lebanese bread.

The service at Jasmin One is friendly and fast and they also have plenty of high chairs.

Jasmin One is located at 224 The Boulevarde in Punchbowl, (02) 9740 7866. It is open 7 days a week for lunch and dinner, but has limited hours during Ramadan.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blueberry pancakes

It was Father's Day recently, which was a great excuse for an indulgent breakfast. My family loves these pancakes. I particularly like the vibrant blue swirls in the batter caused by the addition of blueberries. We also ate these pancakes on Mother's Day, as well as some days in between.

Blueberry pancakes

Serves 4 (or in our case, 2 adults, a 3 year old and a 1 year old)

2 cups plain flour + 4 teaspoons baking powder (or 2 cups self-raising flour)
4 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
500ml milk
1 1/2 cups of frozen blueberries
Small amounts of butter for frying
Maple syrup, for serving

Set oven to a low temperature (100 degrees Celsius), for keeping cooked pancakes warm.

Combine flour, baking powder and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Make a well for the wet ingredients.

Separate eggs, placing the yolks in a measuring jug with the milk and the whites in a clean bowl. Beat yolks and milk with a fork until combined. Whisk whites to soft peaks (I use the whisk attachment on my stick blender).

Add milk/yolk mixture to dry ingredients and gently mix until just combined. Gently fold in blueberries and egg whites.

Heat a heavy-based frying pan with a small amount of butter over a medium heat. Dollop approx 2 tablespoons of mixture and per pancake and swirl to flatten to a round shape. Flip them over when they bubble in the middle. Transfer cooked pancakes to an ovenproof dish (I use a corningware dish with a lid), cover and store in oven as you cook each batch.

Serve with lashings of maple syrup (real, of course!).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Risotto cakes

I can quite happily make a meal out of finger-food. My greedy inner child delights at the prospect of many different tastes on revolving platters. More often than not, enthusiasm is tempered by the reality of being a vegetarian in a canape function: one, maybe two, choices to pounce on as the omnivores are closing in! Imagine being further restricted in your choices by a food allergy or intolerance (eg gluten). I did, and what follows is a tasty gluten free snack, easily adaptable to different tastes.

Pumpkin, cheese and caramelised onion risotto cakes

Makes 12 large or 24 mini risotto cakes

120g arborio rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
180g butternut pumpkin, peeled and grated
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup pizza blend cheese, grated (i.e. a combination of cheddar, mozzarella and parmesan)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup light thickened cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped (sometimes I add 1 teaspoon of chopped sage too/instead)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Caramelised onion topping
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium Spanish onion, halved and sliced
pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon seeded mustard (optional)
1 sprig fresh thyme

Heat oil and butter in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add onions and pinch of salt and saute until onions are translucent but not browned (about 10 minutes). Reduce heat to low, add thyme sprigs and allow onions to gently cook for 15-20 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until very soft. Add vinegar and mustard and stir to deglaze the pan. Switch off the heat and set onions aside.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Lightly grease one muffin tray (makes 12 larger cakes) or 2 mini muffin trays (makes 24 canapes) with butter.

Cook rice in boiling, salted water for 10 minutes. Drain well.

Saute diced onion for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add pumpkin and garlic, sauteing for 5 minutes more or until pumpkin is cooked and reduced. Leave to cool for a few minutes.

In a bowl (or in the cooled saucepan) combine pumpkin mixture with cheese, egg, cream and thyme. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fill each cup of muffin tray of choice to brim with the risotto mixture, packing gently to close any gaps. Make a shallow indentation in the middle of each cup (about 1 cm deep - maybe less for the mini muffins). Using a teaspoon, place mounds of caramelised onion topping on and above the dents.

Bake risotto cakes for approximately 30 minutes (using standard muffin tray) or 20 minutes (using mini muffin tray), or until firm to touch and golden around edges. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before gently removing from tray (a gentle twist should do it) and devouring (or placing on a cooling rack to cool completely for storage).

Note. For a spinach, cheese and roast capsicum variation, substitute pumpkin with 150g frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and excess moisture squeezed out. Add 4 tablespoon of fresh, chopped dill (mint also works well) to the risotto mixture. Top with little piles of roasted, red capsicum (see below) instead of the caramelised onion.

Roasted red capsicum topping
2 red capsicum, cored, membrane removed, cut into 4 or 5 flat pieces for grilling

Heat grill on highest setting. Lay pieces of capsicum skin-side up over foil-covered grill tray and grill until blackened. Transfer hot pieces to a plastic bag, seal and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Slip skins off capsicum pieces and slice pieces into fine strips.

Time-saving tip: you can use ready-made onion marmalade or bottled roast capsicum for the toppings.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pumpkin and spinach lasagna

As much as I love spending time in the kitchen, I also love eating dinner early enough to ensure the kids get to bed before transitioning from cuddly Mogwais to scary Gremlins. This is why I am excited by meals that keep on giving (servings, that is!). Lasagna is great because you can prepare it in advance and then simply reheat the required portions when you get home from work. It also freezes well, for the uber-organised.

 Pumpkin and spinach lasagna

Serves 6 (enough to feed 2 greedy adults and 2 toddlers twice over)

Approx 1kg butternut pumpkin (eg half a large one), peeled and sliced into 5mm thick slices
6-8 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
375g low-fat ricotta
1 x 250g packet frozen chopped spinach, defrosted, squeezed
150g feta (I tend to use Greek or Bulgarian goat's milk)
2 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 x 690g bottle tomato passata
1 x 250g packet instant lasagna
A good handful of grated hard cheese (eg cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella or a combination)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Toss the pumpkin slices with olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper to taste and lay on baking paper on an oven tray. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until cooked and browned on edges.
Meanwhile, place ricotta in a mixing bowl and crumble in the spinach and feta. Add the onions and mix to combine. Season to taste with salt (sparingly, as the feta adds a lot!) and pepper.
Pour about a cup of passata on the bottom of a baking dish (I use a rectangular Corningware dish that fits 2 large, curly lasagna sheets per layer). Cover with lasagna sheets, half the cooked pumpkin, about a cup of passata, half the garlic and a light sprinkling of hard cheese. Cover with more lasagna sheets and spread over the spinach and ricotta mixture. Repeat these two layers, reserving some hard cheese and passata for the top. Put a final layer of lasagna sheets over the (second) spinach and ricotta layer, cover with a thick blanket of passata and sprinkle over remaining hard cheese and pine nuts.
To help the pasta cook on the edges, I usually create a moat by adding water to the remaining passata in the bottle and drizzling it around the outside of the assembled lasagna inside the baking dish.
Place baking dish in oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes (or until the pasta is tender in the middle of the lasagna). Allow it to sit for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.