Feb 18 2014

Simplicity is Beauty

…and most people somehow manage to spoil it. Follow James’ simple and insightful steps on how to cook the perfect steak and you will be greatly rewarded. Promise.

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James: This dish is a staple at our house. If you are a competent shopper and semi-competent barbecue manager, it is delicious. It is also infinitely variable.

Watch this: you’re a calorie counter? Skip the steak, use chicken breast and less butter. You’re vego? Tofu. Pesco? Salmon. Asparagus out of season? Bok choy. For a growing teenager? Add rice. For guests? Add toasted sesame seeds. Time poor? No egg. Et bloody cetera.*

*For more fun rhymes check out James’ rap tracks here.

The sauce – again infinitely variable: butter, something salty, something sweet, something vinegary – is the solution to almost any protein problem you might have. I promise. Riff on it.

The particular version of this dish I made for WDTD happened by accident. I was driving to one of The Big Two Supermarkets on a Sunday morning before Lucy was due to arrive. I had in mind that I would purchase some of The Big Two’s (surprisingly acceptable) salmon and some of their (surprisingly acceptable) Chinese broccoli.

As I drove, a handwritten sign for a farmer’s market at a local school caught my eye. Easy decision. The steaks are scotch fillet from Isis River in the Hunter Valley. The asparagus was grown near the Hawkesbury.

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Some of you probably have a pretty good knowledge on how to cook the perfect steak to your own liking – with your very own dos and don’ts. But for those of you who haven’t got this under their belt – this post is for you, so read on! I always learn a thing or two (or even three) when I meet the fellow cooks. And this lesson from James is sure one that will stick with me forever.

First of all, it is very important to remove the steak from the packaging, pat dry evenly with paper towel, season with salt and let it come down to room temperature for about an hour. This will allow the steak to cook through more evenly and brown better. Please vary the ‘sitting at room temperature’ according to the thickness and size of the steak as well. The salt that has dissolved creates a delicious crust as the steak hits the hot barbie. You can of course cook this in the kitchen, best use a cast iron pan if you own one.

The salting process.  This helps the meat to 1) maintain a bit more internal moisture in the long run – meaning, the moisture drawn out to the surface by the salt has time to be reabsorbed back into the meat; 2) tenderise the meat by breaking down the proteins, resulting in a softer and juicier steak. This process happens very slowly which is why it takes a while. Trust me, your patience will be greatly rewarded.

The last finishing touch. Brush your steak with a small amount of cooking oil. These days I am in love with truffle infused olive oil, so I might give this a try.

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Cook the steak simultaneously from all sides (until springy to the touch for medium) at a gentle pace around 10-15 sec on each side for more even and fast cooking

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  • Who: James d’Apice
  • Home is: My childhood home is in the Sydney suburb of Greenwich. That’s where these photographs were taken
  • Family origin: Basically Anglo-Celtic but with an exciting, spicy surname
  • I can’t live without: Family, the only people in my life obliged to listen to me complain
  • Occupation: Solicitor
  • Dream Job: Solicitor, but working fewer hours for more money
  • Currently I am obsessed with: Drake
  • Childhood taste: My Mum’s tortellini with cream, parmesan and bacon
  • I will always have in my pantry: Oats
  • I learnt to cook from: Partly my Mum and partly television chefs I used to watch with my Mum and now I gossip about them with my Mum
  • Currently I’m listening to: Drake
  • One day I must visit: Drake’s house
  • Go to meal: Protein and greens
  • I am really good at: Being a member of my family, cooking (duh), my job and finishing novels even if I am not enjoying them
  • The unforgettable meal: My partner took me to Arras for my birthday one year. This is when it was in its old location in Walsh Bay. We’d been to better restaurants before and we’ve been to better restaurants since, but there was a little magic in the air that night. It was a Friday and the place was near empty. We slid through the courses and concluded with the patented (it’s not patented. Just a figure of speech. Be cool.) Arras tray of lollies. “Take as many as you’d like,” we were told, “and here’s a box for you to take some home for later.” I nearly cried. We’ve since been back a few times. If you like excellent all you can eat lollies, then go
  • My piece of Sydney: There’s a rock near where I grew up in Greenwich. You jump from it into the harbour. I only plucked up the courage to make the leap after seeing my childhood neighbour Ben do it. We called it Jump Rock. Still do
  • Guilty Pleasure: Watching Youtube clips of cricket from thirty years ago
  • Who does the dishes: My partner and I. It (hopefully) works out around 50/50
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The creamy egg yolk brings the already juicy and succulent steak to another level!

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With a kitchen like this, I’d be doing the dishes all day

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Steak

Ingredients - Serves 1

  • 1 piece of steak – used here is Scotch fillet, the ribbons of fat that run through the meat keep it moist and tender while cooking
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (or other seasonal greens)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 1 tbs rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • cooking oil
  • butter
  • salt
  1. At least an hour in advance if possible, remove the steak from packaging and pat dry evenly with paper towel. Sprinkle over lots of salt. Leave steak out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature.
  2. For the seasoning sauce. Mix the sugar, vinegar and soy. Add a teaspoon of water. Taste it. If you like it, that’s your sauce, done. If not, vary your proportions.
  3. Turn on your barbecue or cast iron pan on the kitchen stove until smoking hot.
  4. Pat your steak dry again then cook it simultaneously from all sides (until springy to the touch for medium) at a gentle pace around 10-15 sec on each side for more even and fast cooking.
  5. Put your asparagus onto the barbecue (or a separate sauté pan with a bit of oil if cooking in the kitchen) with a generous sprinkle of salt.
  6. The most important bit! If you skip this step then you don’t really deserve to cook or eat steak – just so you know. Take your steak off the barbecue and let it rest at least six or seven minutes to seal in the juices and keep the steak tender.
  7. Poaching the egg. Put some water on to boil on medium heat. Get it just below boiling. Crack your egg into a strainer (this means you will avoid all the stringy bits you normally get when you poach an egg), get the egg from the strainer into a small bowl then into the pot of just below boiling water, turn the heat off the pot and put the lid on. Come back in five minutes.
  8. Get the asparagus off the barbecue and put some butter on them.
  9. Slice up your steak after it has rested (this is not necessary, but helps if you are serving steak to people who ‘don’t like steak’). Serve asparagus on the plate and your steak on top. Season with the mixed sauce then top with the poached egg. Unbelievable!
Dec 24 2013

‘Tis the Festive Factor

If you happen to have the right ingredients in your pantry (and bit of spare time), here’s your chance to satisfy your sweet tooth and desire for a curry fix. Dishes guaranteed to get you in a festive mood.

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It’s Christmas Eve and my tree has yet to be decorated! But before I go on doing that I must share with you all this very special post of Niki’s festive Pandan Lamingtons and her authentic Malaysian Fish Curry. If you happen to have these ingredients in your pantry (and a spare time tomorrow morning), I suggest you whip these beauties up to wow your family and loved ones.

Niki: These pandan lamingtons came about as an extension of my family’s tendency to have a hodgepodge, east-meets-west Christmas affair in Australia. Sumptuous roast turkey will sit alongside a bowl of tender beef rendang. We’ll have roast veg on the side as well as little tubes of sticky rice. This year I wanted to do something different for dessert, so I gave a standard lamington recipe a very Malaysian twist!

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Whisk eggs, pandan essence and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water for 5-10 minutes or until light and frothy. This helps dissolve the sugar and also assists in increasing volume. Squeeze in 6-8 drops of green food colouring – enough to give it a festive green hue!

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WDTD is in love with Niki's cute and very lush little backyard that is packed with many green goodness!

WDTD is in love with Niki’s cute and very lush little backyard that is packed with much green goodness!

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Just a view of Niki's backyard fresh produce, from clockwise: sage, vietnamese mint, silver beet, basil, grapes!!, marjoram

Just a view of Niki’s backyard fresh produce, from clockwise: sage, vietnamese mint, silver beet, marjoram, grapes!! and basil

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Picking some fresh coriander and lemongrass for the fish curry

Picking some fresh coriander and lemongrass for the fish curry

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  • Who: Niki Aken
  • Home is: Sydney’s Inner West
  • Family origin: Sarawak, Malaysia
  • I can’t live without: Trying new things
  • Occupation: Screenwriter
  • Dream Job: I’m doing it! I do crave nature though – my dream is to write from the country
  • Currently I am obsessed with: Japan! (upcoming trip)
  • Childhood taste: Cheese on toast. We only had it when my parents were exhausted, but this made it all the more illicit and sought after. I have to mention mum’s brownies too; I used to eat them and think I was the luckiest kid in the world
  • I will always have in my pantry: Noodles, chickpeas, tuna, olive oil
  • I learnt to cook from: My parents, trial and error, the internet
  • Currently I’m listening to: New Beyoncé! AlunaGeorge, Drake
  • One day I must visit: Sweden
  • Go to meal: For brekkie/lunch: avocado on sourdough with pepper, olive oil and a wedge of lemon – original I know. For dinner: red chicken curry
  • I am really good at: Repurposing leftovers
  • The unforgettable meal: Befriended some locals in Nha Trang, Vietnam, who took us to a restaurant way off the tourist track. The chicken – which had had a great life wandering freely around the farm out the back of the restaurant – was killed to order. Our new friends also ordered snake and frog and every last bit of each was consumed. This wins for experience. In terms of sheer flavour explosions it would be Garagistes in Hobart
  • My piece of Sydney: It’s a tie between Camperdown Park and Clovelly beach
  • Guilty Pleasure: Maggie Beer burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice cream. Oh man!
  • Who does the dishes: I wash as I go (ingrained from working at Macca’s as a teen) followed by whoever doesn’t cook, with dishwasher assistance

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Niki: When I think of eating food with my family in Malaysia, fish curry always springs to mind. A popular Malaysian meal is fish head curry, but I’ve made a more accessible version with ling fillets. This recipe is my dad’s but I’ve made some adjustments.

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Top right: Ernest Hemingway guarding the spices

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I hope you enjoy this last post for the year 2013. Thank you all very much for your continuous and genuine support of this blog – especially to those who contributed. You have kindly opened your lovely homes and shared your time, creativity and beautiful recipes to WDTD. I look forward to discover more of what our amazing community has to offer next year and share it with you all. Have a very festive and safe holidays! xx

Malaysian Fish Curry

Ingredients - Serves 2-4

  • 6 Small dried chillies
  • 2 Fillets of Ling*
  • Rice flour
  • 2 Cloves garlic
  • 1 Big brown onion
  • Thumb size of ginger
  • Thumb size of fresh turmeric
  • 1.5 tbs Cumin
  • 2 tbs Coriander
  • 1 tbs Mustard seeds
  • 1 tbs Paprika
  • 2 tsp Curry powder
  • 1 tsp Chilli powder
  • 2 tsp Sugar
  • 2 Stalks fresh lemongrass
  • 4 Lebanese eggplants
  • 2 Tomatoes
  • 500g Okra** (about 8 or so)
  • 2 tsp Fish sauce
  • 250g Coconut milk
  • 50-100 ml Water
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Rehydrate your chilies in hot water for 15-30 minutes. Drain and roughly chop.
  2. Put your cumin, coriander and mustard seeds under the grill or dry-roast for about 5 minutes or until nice and fragrant. Pound in a mortar and pestle until fine (or whiz in a food processor).
  3. Cut ling into large chunks. Coat the chunks in rice flour. Fry in vegetable oil for about 5-6 minutes, turning once. Set aside.
  4. Finely chop onion, garlic, turmeric and ginger.
  5. Quarter the tomatoes. Cut the eggplant into 5 cm chunks. Top and tail the okra.
  6. Add vege oil to a medium-large pot. When hot, fry the garlic for a few minutes, then add the onion, turmeric and ginger.
  7. When onion is translucent, add the rehydrated chillis, cumin, coriander, paprika, chilli powder and curry powder. Stir and add the coconut milk gradually.
  8. Add the curry leaves and 2 tsp fish sauce.
  9. Stir in the eggplant.
  10. Pound the white part of the lemongrass, chop finely and add to the pot.
  11. Add 2 tsp sugar, the water, tomato and pineapple chunks.
  12. Reduce heat to cook at a high simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in the okra after about 5 minutes.
  13. Taste, adjusting with salt/sugar to taste if necessary.
  14. Serve with white rice and garnish with fresh curry leaves and coriander.
  15. * You can use a different white fish if you prefer (ie. red snapper or hoki) but ling holds together pretty well for this dish.
  16. ** If you can’t find okra you could substitute zucchini, though I would insist you keep the tomatoes because they make sure the curry isn’t too uniform in flavour.

Pandan Lamingtons

Ingredients - Serves 12

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp pandan essence
  • green food colouring
  • 
250g plain flour
  • 30g unsalted butter, melted
  • 400g shredded coconut
  • 600g white chocolate
  • 300ml pouring cream
  1. Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease and line your lamington tray (you could also use two square cake tins).
  2. Whisk eggs, pandan essence and sugar in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water for 5-10 minutes or until light and frothy. (This helps dissolve the sugar and also assists in increasing volume.) Squeeze in 6-8 drops of green food colouring – enough to give it a festive green hue!
  3. Transfer to an electric mixer and whisk on high speed in a large mixing bowl for 10 minutes or until mixture has tripled in volume. Sift over plain flour in batches and, using a metal spoon, fold gently to combine between additions. Just before adding the last of the flour, fold through melted butter.
  4. Pour into prepared tin(s) and bake in centre of oven for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Stand in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes, then turn out onto racks and cool completely.
  5. For the white chocolate coating, combine chocolate and cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. When the chocolate begins to melt, stir gently until combined and smooth and set aside in a warm place.
  6. Scatter shredded coconut over a tray. Cut the cake(s) into 4-5cm squares.
  7. Using 2 forks, dip each square into the ganache and shake or scrape off excess chocolate. (If ganache starts to thicken, place bowl over gently simmering water to thin.) Roll each square in coconut, shake off excess and place on a wire rack to set. Stand for at least 1 hour or until chocolate sets. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 3 days.
Dec 11 2013

Festive Cheesecake

Lara’s signature cheesecake – light, fluffy, nutty and glorious in every mouthful. It looks so festive too, why not make it as the show-stopper dessert for our hot summer Aussie Christmas!

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Lara: I first made the toffee pecan cheesecake for mother’s day nearly 10 years ago, and its been a family favourite ever since, making appearances at different occasions over the years. I’ve also made it in a 3 tiered version (with 3 additional kitchen cakes!) for a friend’s wedding a few years ago. I was doubting whether that was such a great idea at midnight the night before when I was still on my 5th or 6th cake.

Lara and her wedding cheesecake masterpiece. Image courtesy of Lara Platt

Lara and her wedding cheesecake masterpiece. Image courtesy of Lara Platt

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  • Who: Lara Platt
  • Home is: Erskineville, Sydney
  • Family origin: Australia
  • I can’t live without: Weekends
  • Occupation: Graphic Designer and Textile Print Designer of Lara Kate
  • Dream Job: Luxury Hotel Reviewer
  • Currently I am obsessed with: Trying to decide what flavour my wedding cake will be!
  • Childhood taste: I think my love for degustation meals with lots of tiny courses comes from my mum making my brother and I plates full of lots of small pieces of different fruit, veggies, cheese, biscuits and whatever was around, as a way to get us excited about eating healthy food
  • I will always have in my pantry: Bottles of infused olive oil, as my aunty used to work for an olive grove and got me hooked
  • I learnt to cook from: My mum and dad when I was younger, and these days the internet
  • Currently I’m listening to: The rain, as always right before my birthday! Also one of our favourite bands Nile, who we’re seeing in a few days time
  • One day I must visit: Turkey and Egypt
  • Go to meal: Marinated prawn or lamb skewers on the barbie with a really nice glass of wine. Or two
  • I am really good at: Planning ahead when it comes to cooking lunches and dinner through the week but in most other areas of my life, I’m really good at procrastinating! I procrastinate by preparing food
  • The unforgettable meal: A beautiful degustation with matching wines at Rossellinis in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast. The most amazing food I have ever seen and tasted, in the most unforgettable setting
  • My piece of Sydney: Going for a run by the water in Drummoyne, then having my friends and family over to relax in our courtyard with great food and wine. Either that or a meal at Cafe Sydney!
  • Guilty Pleasure: Champagne
  • Who does the dishes: The dishwasher!

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Lara enjoying her labour of love cheesecake in her very own print design skirt - Lara Kate

Lara enjoying her labour of love cheesecake in her very own print design skirt

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Toffee Pecan Cheesecake with Fresh Berries

Ingredients - Serves 12

  • Biscuit Base
  • 125g biscuit of your choice (I use shredded wheatmeal)
  • 60g butter, melted
  • Filling
  • 375g cream cheese
  • 375g ricotta
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1&1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Caramel Topping
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 60g butter
  • 12 pecans
  • Blueberries and raspberries, as much as you like
  • Toffee
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 chopped pecans
  1. Set oven to 180˚C and grease a 23cm springform pan (with removable side and bottom).
  2. Combine biscuit crumbs and butter in a bowl, mix well. Press over base of pan, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  3. Beat* cream cheese, ricotta and vanilla until smooth, add brown sugar, beat until smooth. *Avoid over-beating the batter. Over-beating incorporates additional air and tends to cause cracking on the surface of the cheesecake.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time, then flour. Stir in the chopped pecans.
  5. Pour filling into crumb crust, bake for 50 minutes or until set. Please bear in mind that cheesecake baking times are varied due to the different types of ovens. The cheesecake will continue to bake after being removed from the oven. The center of the cheesecake should be just slightly moist when it is ready to be removed. Upon removal from the oven, loosen the cheesecake from the edge of the pan by running the tip of a knife between the top edge of the cake and the side of the pan. This allows the cake to pull away freely from the pan as it cools. After the cheesecake has cooled completely, gently loosen the entire side of the cheesecake from the pan with the tip of a knife while slowly releasing the springform pan clamp. Carefully remove the side of the pan. Let it cool over the kitchen counter for about an hour, then cover it and refrigerate overnight.
  6. To make the toffee, combine sugar and water in a small pan, stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved, then boil rapidly without stirring until mixture turns a light golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add pecans, then pour onto a greased oven tray.
  7. While the toffee is setting, remove the cake from the springform pan, placing onto a serving plate.
  8. To make the caramel topping, combine brown sugar and butter in a pan, stir over low heat without boiling for about 5 minutes or until smooth and thick.
  9. While the topping is hot, pour it over the refrigerated cheesecake and spread to the edges. Once it has set a little, place the 12 pecans and berries around the edge, in a decorative ring.
  10. Once the toffee has set, break it up as finely as desired. I use a meat tenderiser, but it can be messy!
  11. Sprinkle the toffee to cover the middle of the cake. Slice and serve!

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