Best recipes of 2011

OK. I know that 2011 isn’t over yet, but I’m not sure I can wait til the end of the year to share these recipes. They almost fit together as a meal (a ridiculously large meal) as there is an appetizer, a main, and a dessert, and an extra carb.

Tell me if you try them, ask if you have any questions.

1. Rocket, Apple-Pear and Blue Cheese Salad with Caramelised Walnuts.

I’ve always liked the rocket and pear combination, and I’ve also liked a pear and blue cheese pairing. But this easy-to-make recipe takes familiar flavours and then amps it up full volume. I’ve never known how to caramelise before. Turning the walnuts into sweet, crunchy, sugary goodness is part one of the revelation; the second is pouring Spanish sherry vinegar over it once it’s made, which makes an amazing dressing.

But the recipe is precise and substitutions are not advised. Regular pears would be too sweet with the walnuts and the sherry vinegar; nashi pears (or apple-pears as my family calls them) have a fantastic crunchy texture and a mild sweetness which goes well with the other flavours. The sherry vinegar has a flavour all of its own – much better than the first time I tried it with something else. Even the time I doubled up the rocket to use up some that was going off somehow made the proportions wrong.

But it’s not hard to make. Put it all together: the walnuts, pear, dressing, a handful of rocket, and your favourite blue cheese, and this, my friends, is a Salad. The creator of it, Geoff Jansz, has his own website – and it looks like he showed off the recipe on one of Australia’s very popular gardening and lifestyle TV shows, Burke’s Backyard.


Blue Eye Trevalla and Mussel Curry

I thought that I made OK curries, but I was only fooling myself. S. and I spent months addicted to the latest season of Australia’s Masterchef show, and while some friends complained about the silly reality-TV drama and its horrible insults to the intelligence, we learned something new about cooking practically every show.

This recipe, created by Gary Menighan and inspired by South India, allowed me to discover new ingredients (turmeric root, curry leaves, tamarind paste), use our relatively new food processor (to make the paste) and learn to make flat-bread! It’s a fussy recipe with a lot of ingredients so you might want to watch the show (online) but god, it was worth it. I’ve served it up twice – and I find the flavour of the curry addictive. Matched with cod and mussels from the Fish Market. Boy oh boy, was this good.

3. Poh’s Malaysian Fried Rice

I don’t eat a lot of rice these days but this could get me back to it. I was looking for a way to use up some leftover rice that I’d put in the freezer (frozen rice makes the best fried rice). I did a search on the web for “best fried rice recipe” and among the contenders was this one. I did try another recipe, a more basic traditional one, but this one is amazing. It’s also culturally unfamiliar; I don’t think I ever ate Malaysian food when I was growing up.

But it’s amazing what a few changes can do to a recipe. You think you know fried rice? Well, not until you’ve added pounded dried shrimp, which gives it an amazing texture and more weight. But the richness of this is offset by fresh cucumber. Meanwhile, the chili and the rest of the aromatics combine to give the dish a real depth of flavour. It’s amazing. Try it out. Video instruction is also on the web.

4. Green Tea Ice Cream (without an ice cream maker)

I confess that we’ve lately bought an ice cream maker, and that the texture of the real stuff is different. But I made this recipe for at least six months, and it’s rather good. It’s unbelievably easy. Whip cream, stir in condensed milk and a teaspoon of vanilla, and your favourite flavour. How crazy is that? I think it would be a fun thing to do with your kids (or big kids). I love that you can choose your own flavour. And ice cream in Australia is really expensive…(and this is not).

So far, I’ve made the recipe with homemade peanut butter (which was a bit too rich and grainy), chocolate flakes, bailey’s, grappa and pear (watch out, if you use too much fruit puree, the ice cream gets a icy), and chunks of Daim bar. I’m considering a swirl with salted caramel. But my absolute favourite is using Japanese Matcha (green tea) powder. Suze (who I thank for this recipe) recommended putting in just a teaspoon, but I put 4 tablespoons in mine. Maybe we bought different stuff…


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