Apr 3 2017

Summer Spanakopita

Earlier this year we spent a wonderful couple of days in the beautiful Southern Highlands with my dear friend Patricia. We visited her sister’s property that day and the setting of her place couldn’t have been more picture perfect. Cute country house on 20 acres with grazing cows, purple hydrangeas and a veggie garden complete with Purslane. Seeing the abundance of silver beet growing in Kristal’s veggie garden, Patricia decided to make us a Spanakopita – a Greek spinach pie packed with bold refreshing flavours. A perfect summer dish.

Growing up, Patricia was always drawn to the world of cooking and hospitality. She worked in the industry since she was 15 years old. She has always loved being in a service industry and then realised she also loved teaching people and sharing with them what she had learnt in all those years.

Patricia: It’s not just about cooking, its about sharing food, conversations, opinions and growing. When I was about 27, I was working in Balmain and met Kylie Kwong through a mutual friend and one day out of the blue she called me and asked if I’d work with her and that’s when my professional cooking career started and really hasn’t ended. Through Kylie I met Neil Perry and Bill Granger, all whom I have worked for too. Sometimes I can’t believe I actually have worked with these people and I have always been so grateful for the experiences I have had and the people I have worked with.

I met Janni Kyritsis when I worked at the Rockpool group when the pastry chef I knew went to work for him. She gave him some Greek sweets that I made and he loved them. I don’t really know him though, but I loved meeting him and when he did a cooking class at the Sydney Seafood Market, my sister and I went to the class and that’s when I fell in love with his Wild Weed Pie book.

Patricia’s nieces and nephews on their Dad’s tractor

Patricia: This is a dish I learnt from Janni Kyritsis about 11 years ago and I absolutely love making it especially because it is such a Greek dish that would be at every family function. In this version, I added a big handful of chopped dill and some mint leaves to give it that extra refreshing summer taste.

Left, Greek’s mountain dried oregano. My latest herb obsession.

  • Who: Patricia Phillips
  • Home is: Mittagong
  • Family origin: Father is from Cypress and Mother is from Rhodes, Greece
  • I can’t live without: My Vizsla dog – Franke
  • Occupation: I teach cooking classes in the Southern Highlands for groups of friends and corporates
  • Dream Job: Professional traveller (is there such a career) or a professional ceramist
  • Currently I am obsessed with: Ceramics
  • Childhood taste: Loukoumades, Greek honey doughnut balls. My mother would make it whenever one of us lost our baby tooth
  • I will always have in my pantry: Vanilla beans
  • I learnt to cook from: My aunty when I was young, Kylie Kwong and other chefs I worked with
  • Currently I’m listening to: My niece talking to herself
  • One day I must visit: Positano
  • Go to meal: If I’m cooking – I love plain spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, greek mountain oregano and dried ricotta. If I’m eating out it’s dumplings all day long, I love dumplings
  • I am really good at: Making something out of nothing, I am pretty resourceful
  • The unforgettable meal: The best meals are the ones spent with the ones you love, always makes everything taste better
  • My piece of Sydney: I can’t tell you it’s a secret
  • Guilty pleasure: I love going to the movies
  • Who does the dishes: I usually hire someone to do the dishes

Pictured above to the right is Purslane. A type of weed that has the highest content of Omega 3! While also an Australian native, purslane or pigweed (Portulaca oleracea) is widespread globally and is a common summer-growing plant on most continents. Its use is documented from the Middle East by the ancient Persians, and it is still widely used as a cooked or salad vegetable in the Mediterranean.

The young shoots are fleshy, slightly tart and mucilaginous, and provide a salty tang to any salad. Lightly steamed, or wrapped in foil and thrown into the coals or on the barbecue, it is delicious with butter and pepper, making it an excellent “greens”. The leaves are rich in vitamins C and A, with some B vitamins as well. The tartness is due to oxalic acid, which cooking destroys, so people with rheumatism or gout should avoid eating it uncooked.

The seeds, used by indigenous Australians to make a flour, are the highest known vegetable source of omega 3 oils (alpha-linolenic acid). To harvest the tiny seeds, the indigenous Australians developed a method of piling the plants in heaps on a flat hard surface, bark or animal skin to let them dry. The seeds would automatically drop in a concentrated pile, where they could be easily gathered.

This highly nutritious and valuable plant is easy to grow in any garden or pot. You will occasionally find it commercially.

Patricia made Purslane, cherry tomatoes and basil salad to accompany the Spanakopita. After half an hour, it is finally out of the oven. It smelled divine and we all enjoyed it scrumptiously!

Spanakopita

Ingredients - Serves 6

  • Filling
  • 1kg silver beet, stalks removed
  • a big handful of chopped dill
  • a small handful of chopped mint
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 big leek, finely chopped
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Dried Greek oregano, to taste
  • 500g fresh ricotta
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup olive oil, for brushing
  • extra plain flour, for dusting
  • Filo Pastry
  • 500g plain flour
  • 225ml water
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Make filo pastry: Combine flour, water, egg and salt in a bowl and stir until it comes together into a dough. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Wrap in plastic-film and set aside for 1 hour.
  2. Make filling: Wash silver beet leaves and with the water still clinging to them, place them in a saucepan, cover and cook over medium heat until just wilted. Drain in a colander and squeeze to extract as much liquid as possible. Roughly chop and set aside in a bowl.
  3. Heat olive oil in the saucepan, add onion and leek and cook over a low heat for 6-8 minutes, until soft.
  4. In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped silver beet, add dill, mint, egg and oregano. Gently fold in ricotta, season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate.
  5. Preheat oven to 200ºC. Cut filo pastry in half and roll out 1 half on a lightly floured surface to make a 60cm square. Using a dinner plate as a guide, cut a round in the centre of the pastry, then cut remaining pastry into 8 equal pieces and brush the 8 pieces liberally with oil. Place the 8 pastry pieces on top of one another, top with the pastry round, dust generously with flour and roll out into a 40cm round. Trim edges to make a neat 40cm round. Place this round on a 26cm pizza tray. Repeat rolling, cutting and layering with the remaining pastry half. Trim edges to make a neat 40cm round and set aside. Spread filling to edges of pizza tray, then fold excess pastry over filling, pleating sides as you go. Gently gather second sheet of rolled pastry with two hands and place on top of pie, allowing it to fold.
  6. Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  7. Janni Kyritsis’ tips if you plan to use nettles: When preparing nettles, wear rubber gloves as any contact with the nettles will cause itchiness for days. Harvested from the wild, only the young shoots and tops of nettles are eaten, but they must be cooked beforehand to remove the stinging element. If nettles are unavailable, just use the other greens. This pie is ideal for a picnic or light lunch. You could use this pie filling with a commercial filo pastry, which is what many modern Greeks would choose to do.
Jul 30 2016

Kangaroo Valley

Posted in Travel Snaps | 1 Comment
Nov 24 2015

The Scrumptious Pair

Tom and Adele’s love for cooking and eating is way too much for the two of them. So it is only fitting that they share it with their family and friends 🙂

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Recently we got an invitation to a spring backyard BBQ at Tom and Adele’s place in the inner west part of Sydney. A little birdie told me that Adele was making her famous Beef Chilli Brisket. Oh yeah. So I packed the babies (both camera and baby) plus the husband and off we went to join in this delicious festivity!

Upon entering the dining area, seeing the huge baker’s tray that’s full of Vietnamese bread rolls was a promising sight. Followed with the comforting delicious smell of the brisket that had been cooking in the oven for the past 5 hours on 140˚c. Only goodness can come out of that.

To accompany the (melt in your mouth) brisket, Tom made this awesome Chilli Con Veggies that’s packed with goodness of various nutritious beans, herbs and spices. The plan was to assemble the two dishes into the bread roll (plus a Kransky if you are game), top with generous amount of chopped coriander, condiments, grated tasty cheese and fried eschalot. Are you drooling yet?

Tom and Adele’s love for cooking and eating is way too much for the two of them. So it is only fitting that they share it with their family and friends 🙂 Thank you guys for being such great hosts. Everything was perfect – from the food, drinks, company and to the weather.

Check out the recipes below to create your own delicious spring BBQ!

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  • Who: Tom McMullan
  • Home is: Inner west
  • Family origin: Tom’s father grew up in Kenya and his mum is from Penrith. One of Tom’s Grandmothers was a sergeant in WW2, the other he fondly remembers making rhubarb crumble with fresh rhubarb from their vegetable garden in Epping
  • I can’t live without: Chocolate and baths (every day without fail)
  • Occupation: Copywriter by the week and DJ by the weekend. Also a weekly volunteer at Sydney community radio station FBi for the past decade which I love!
  • Dream Job: Video game narrative writer OR dog whisperer
  • Currently I am obsessed with: Studying the menus of American fast food joints and learning how to make VR
  • Childhood taste: I was a fussy eater and wouldn’t eat anything without tomato sauce
  • I will always have in my pantry: Chocolate
  • I learnt to cook from: Self-taught with coaching and mentoring from Adele
  • Currently I’m listening to: Autre Ne Veut and Justin Bieber
  • One day I must visit: Akihabara, the video game district in Tokyo and – even though I know it will be terrible – the Simpson’s theme park in Orlando
  • Go to meal: A version of Mexican (Tex Mex) Nachos. They call it “Healthy Nachos” for some reason, even tho they know they’re just fooling themselves. First you make a slow-cooked chilli with beef and beans, then you serve it with fresh tomato salsa, loads of coriander, cheese and chilli sauce
  • I am really good at: Sweating. Even when it’s cold!
  • The unforgettable meal: Gordon Ramsay’s 3-star restaurant in London wasn’t the best food-wise, but the luxe experience was pretty unforgettable – and the bread selection (the best part of any fancy meal) was ALL TIME
  • My piece of Sydney: My bath
  • Guilty pleasure: A plain biscuit and a piece of cadbury milk chocolate, placed on top of each other and shovelled in his mouth. Oh, and KFC
  • Who does the dishes: WE TAKE TURNS! Whoever cooks does not have to clean and vice versa. It’s a pretty cool system

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  • Who: Adele Cutbush
  • Home is: Inner west
  • Family origin: My mother is a country gal from the central tablelands’ Oberon. My country grandmother taught my sister how to bake, however, I was never particularly a sweet tooth, so I never really listened but still usually licked the bowl! My father grew up in Cronulla where his father, lived for the most of his life. My Grandma was born in the United States and then moved to Papua New Guinea. She spent her childhood in PNG then relocated (again) to Sydney and lived her life with my grandpa in Cronulla. She was the inspiration for a lot of my cooking
  • I can’t live without: My big dog Poppet – a Wolfhound cross I rescued from Yagoona RSPCA. I give her a kiss and a cuddle every night before bed and every morning when I wake up
  • Occupation: I am fast approaching my tenth year as a Registered Nurse. After stints as an emergency department nurse, a nurse manager at a group of private medical centres and even a jail nurse at Long Bay, I have just started a new job as the clinic nurse in a boys’ College in Bellevue Hill, which I love!
  • Dream Job: Realistically would love to do a stint for Medecins Sans Frontieres, but also tour nurse for her favourite musicians, like Damon Albarn, Drake, Future Islands or Taylor Swift!
  • Currently I am obsessed with: BBC costume dramas, swimming in the local lap pools around Sydney and cooking from her River Cottage cookbook. I am also pretty addicted to the new Grimes album.
  • Childhood taste: Italian antipasti for some reason (maybe it had something to do with growing up in the 90’s). Artichokes and marinated eggplant from my parents’  local deli were my favourite
  • I will always have in my pantry: Soya sauce, chilli, olive oil and eggs
  • I learnt to cook from: My mother, father and grandparents. They loved to have dinner parties cooking different things and always experimenting. I remember the first thing I learnt to cook was scrambled eggs and would religiously cook them as a 5 year old for all family members
  • Currently I’m listening to: Billy Holiday in the car on the way to work, a lot of The Weeknd and Palms’ new album
  • One day I must visit: It’s been been a lifelong dream to visit Havana ever since I first watched Buena Vista Social Club at the age of 15
  • Go to meal: A version of Mexican (Tex Mex) Nachos. They call it “Healthy Nachos” for some reason, even tho they know they’re just fooling themselves. First you make a slow-cooked chilli with beef and beans, then you serve it with fresh tomato salsa, loads of coriander, cheese and chilli sauce
  • I am really good at: Getting along with every gay man on earth… Truthfully… I have never met a gay man that I don’t get along swimmingly with!
  • The unforgettable meal: David Thompson’s Nahm in Bangkok in Thailand. It was a never-ending banquet of delicious cocktails and curries starring Thailand’s local produce. I think in Sydney I most enjoyed the first fine-dining experience I had with Tom at Oscillate Wildly
  • My piece of Sydney: It’s a little bit south of Sydney, and not Sydney at all, but down the south coast at South Durras. It’s where we holiday every year. It’s on the beach and they cook lovely BBQs, go for swims and walks and play with the dogs in the sand. Heaven
  • Guilty pleasure: White bread (especially plain white Tip-Top bread with butter and vegemite), online shopping and drinking a cold beer in a warm shower
  • Who does the dishes: WE TAKE TURNS! Whoever cooks does not have to clean and vice versa. It’s a pretty cool system

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Beef Chilli Brisket

Ingredients - Serves 15-20 as part of Chilli Dog or 6-8 as main meal

  • 1.5 – 2kg beef brisket (super cheap cut from your local butcher)
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbs of ground cumin
  • 1 tbs of smoked paprika
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1-2 red capsicums
  • 1-2 yellow capsicums
  • 2 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
  • ½ litre beef stock (preferably liquid stock but it’s okay to use stock cubes)
  • 2 x Spanish onions
  • Splash of red wine vinegar
  • A bunch of fresh coriander
  1. Place the beef brisket (which will usually come in two pieces) on a chopping board and score one side.
  2. Pound/bash the cinnamon, cumin, paprika with a mortar and pestle then rub into the cuts in the beef. Then season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Drizzle over some olive oil and brown the brisket pieces all over to seal in a large frying pan over a high heat. If you don’t have a large enough frying pan then just pop it into a baking tray and put the tray over two burners.
  4. Meanwhile, whilst you are browning the brisket (make sure you don’t burn it), place the bay leaves, capsicums, tomatoes and stock in a large pot on another burner and bring to the boil.
  5. Return to the brisket and add the chilli and onion to the pan, cook for 5 minutes.
  6. After your tomato mixture has come to the boil, transfer it to the large baking tray with the brisket cover with foil, and leave to bake on 140˚c for 4–5 hours, the longer the better.
  7. When the beef is ready all the sinews, tendons and fat should melt gently into the meat. It will pull apart easily with a fork when you test it.
  8. Once removed from the oven, pull the beef apart using 2 forks. Remove the bay leaves and add some coriander. You might have to adjust the seasoning and add some more salt and pepper. Also add a splash of red wine vinegar at this point.
  9. You can then serve the brisket in two ways. Either traditionally with some tortilla and a fresh homemade salsa (freshly chopped tomato, Spanish onion, coriander, olive oil and seasoning), or as a Chilli Dog!

Chilli Con Veggies

Ingredients - Serves 15-20 as part of Chilli Dog or 6-8 as main meal

  • 4-6 cloves garlic
  • 1 leek
  • 2 medium brown onions
  • 1 long fresh red chilli
  • Olive oil
  • ½ a cinnamon stick
  • 2 tbs ground cumin
  • 2 tbs ground coriander
  • 2 tbs smoked paprika
  • 1 nutmeg, grated
  • 1 bottle/jar tomato passata
  • 250g dried red lentils
  • 2 x 400g tins red kidney beans, drained
  • 2 x 400g tins black beans, drained
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 1-2 litres of vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • A bunch of fresh coriander
  1. Finely chop the garlic and onions and finely slice the leek and chilli then place into a large (heavy-based) pot over a medium heat with some olive oil.
  2. Fry for about 5 minutes until softened and browned. Add all of the spices and herbs, including the grated nutmeg, then fry for another 2 minutes. If the ingredients dry out a little you can add a little water or olive oil.
  3. Stir in the tomato passata and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lentils, beans and chopped tomatoes, then add the vegetable stock, season with salt and pepper.
  5. Bring all the ingredients to the boil then let it simmer and bubble for at least 2 hours. We cook our Chilli Con Veg for about 3-4 hours so it really absorbs all the delicious herbs and spices. Make sure you stir it every 20-30 minutes and be diligent so it doesn’t stick to the pan or burn. It will thicken and reduce and will be ready to serve.
  6. Serve with a splash of olive oil and some fresh coriander.

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