Thursday, 27 December 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR - Ring in the new year with a bright spark!

Everyone here at The food dept resides in Sydney, Australia and as the rest of the world knows, we do love our fireworks. Sydneysiders pack the foreshores of Sydney harbour to view the most spectacular display of fireworks every New Years Eve, which seem to get bigger and better each year.

2012 has been an exciting first year for the food dept and we have absolutely loved working together and bringing you our delicious food features every month. A huge thank you to everyone around the globe for reading our blog and more importantly leaving feedback and comments. We love hearing your thoughts and ideas, so keep them coming next year and we will try to keep delivering what you like to cook and eat.

 We have put together a sparky little animation for you, which celebrates the end of 2012 and the start of another wonderful new year. Enjoy and remember to bring in the new year with a glass of our limoncello in one hand and a sparkler in the other.

Wishing you all a prosperous, peaceful and Happy New Year!

Cook, create + laugh!
Anne Marie, Petrina, Sally and David 


This delicious lemon liquer is thought to have originated in Southern Italy. It is sweet and lemony without being bitter. So why not give the gift of this zesty refreshing drink on New Years Eve? Italians know how to party, what better way to ring in the New Year.  
Makes 1.2 litres

• 1 cup sugar
• ½ cup water
• 6 organic lemons
• 700ml bottle vodka
• 1 extra lemon, needed after 2 weeks when bottling the recipe

1. Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Using a mircoplane zest the 6 lemons into a large jug. Juice the lemons and combine the juice with the zest.
3. Stir the sugar syrup into the zest and juice while the syrup is still warm but not hot. Add the bottle of vodka and stir well.
4. Using a funnel decant the Limoncello into clean, glass bottles and store in a cool dark place for 2 weeks for the flavour to develop, give the bottle a shake every few days.
5. Just before bottling the Limoncello for gifts, cut strips of lemon zest from the extra lemon with a vegetable peeler and finally julienne them. Blanch in boiling water and place into the base of clean bottles. Strain the Limoncello to remove the grated zest and pour into the bottle and seal.
6. Label the Limoncello with a tag suggesting it is serve straight from the freezer.

food dept fact: Serve Limoncello in chilled shot glasses after a long lazy lunch.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

WHAT are these?

I bought them last week at the market under the freeway in Stockton. The man said camotes. I recognized the word, said yeah yeah and forgot about them. But no, these are not Ipomoea batatas (sweet potatoes). Nor are they Jerusalem artichokes or crosnes. Nor oca. Though they are similar to all these. Finger sized. Starchy and sticky and very crunchy raw. Cooked reminiscent of a potato. I still have NO idea what they are. Any ideas?

Dioscorea opposita, aka Chinese yam. a cousin of the true yam. Grated raw is wicked slimy and would indeed make a good sex lubricant. Fried in oil it makes one of the best latkes I've ever eaten. See. It's the base for okonomiyaki! Thanks to my old pal Brian and his wife! You win a recipe for okonomiyaki. Grate these like for latkes, mix in shredded cabbage, scallions, ginger, crushed peanuts and salt. Then fry like a big pancake. If you're not vegan add egg and raw shrimp finely chopped.

Friday, 21 December 2012

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND THANK YOU for supporting the food dept's first year!

TFD Xmas 4HD from thefooddept on Vimeo.

Fig and pear fruit mince cinnamon tarts
Nothing says Christmas more than the smell of dried fruit, brandy and sweet spices. These delicious little tarts can be made in round base patty pans or a selection of decorative, vintage tins.

• 1 1/3 cups plain flour
1/3 cup icing sugar
125g butter, diced
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
a pinch salt
1 egg yolk
Fig and pear fruit mince
Icing sugar, for dusting

1. Combine the flour, icing sugar, butter, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until combined and looks like fresh breadcrumbs.
2. Add the egg yolk and pulse until it comes together into a ball.
3. Remove the processor and shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.
4. Preheat the oven to 200ºC (400ºF). Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and roll out between floured baking paper to 3mm thickness.
5.Using a cutter slightly larger than the tins you are using cut out the pastry. Use a palate knife to gently lift the pastry into the tins, press into the tins and trim if necessary.
6.Place heaped teaspoons of fruit mince into the pastry and cut a smaller decorative piece to top the pies.
7. Bake in the hot oven for 8-10 minutes or until the pastry is golden, this will depend on the size tins you decide to use.
8. Serve warm or cold sprinkled with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Fig and glace pear fruit mince
This delicious fruit mince recipe makes enough for you and plenty to package up to give away! Make into fruit mince pies or simply serve warm over vanilla ice cream for a quick festive dessert.
Makes 5 cups fruit mince

2 large granny smith apples, peeled and coarsely grated
200g raisins, finely chopped
200g sultanas
200g currants
100g dried figs, finely chopped
100g glace pear, finely chopped
½ cup marmalade
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup brandy
2 teaspoons mixed spice
125g butter, softened
extra, 2 tablespoons brandy

1. Combine the fruits, marmalade, brown sugar, brandy and mixed spice in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer over a medium low heat and cook for approximately 15 minutes until the fruits are softened and the mixture is thick.
2. Add the butter and stir until melted. Stir though the extra brandy.
3. The fruit mince can be used immediately or it can be bottles in sterilized jars and stored in a cool dark place for up to 3 months. Refrigerate once opened. The longer it is stored the better the flavours will develop.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Trial and Error (Stone Milled Red Barley Rolls)

People are often surprised when I tell them I mess up all the time. They ask, "Don't you test your recipes several times until they're just right?" No, I really don't. And even if something does turn out fantastic, I never write anything down and rarely remember exactly what I did. In fact I rarely do anything the same way twice. What would be the fun in that? Even if it's a routine dinner I try to do something slightly different. It's almost never inedible. But sometimes something goes seriously bad. What can you do? Say oops, try again.

Even more surprising is when something I fully expect to work doesn't or when something turns out really interesting that I am sure is bound to fail. Witness these bread rolls. They were made for a film demo this past week, from hand ground whole red barley, sourdough starter and a touch of salt. I just left them in a springform pan overnight and baked them the next day. They are dense, but have an unbelievable flavor, sour and sweet and crumbly rather than chewy. With butter they will be amazing. I think they got wind that I was about to chuck them in the trash. Look at the expression on their faces. Bizarre, isn't it?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Ultimate Cheeseboard for Christmas (for Organic Milk)

The arrival of the cheeseboard on Christmas Day can be one of two things, depending on your point of view. It is either a triumphant, riotous fist, punched into the air with pagan and Bacchanlian joy; or it marks the beginning of a descent into the depths of misery, gluttony and despair. There are only two options (although one might suggest that the two are intrinsically linked) and I have endured both. Every Christmas night, when that platter is placed upon the table, laden with barked blocks and circles of warm, veined, slightly sweaty cheese and flowing, glistening fruit; well my heart goes cockahoop. Or maybe it murmurs. Whatever, I bloody love it. Yet give it an hour or so and you will often find me lying on the floor, prone and groaning, cursing the Gods of the cheese and their wicked ways; tearfully sniffing and muttering into a glass which magically evaporates port.

It. Happens. Every. Year.

Does this sort of behaviour qualify me as an expert on dairy consumables? Probably not, but in any event I was asked recently what sort of cheese would I put on an ultimate cheeseboard for OMSCo; an organisation that promotes organic milk. I went for Tunworth. Which isn't actually made with organic milk, although this article in The Foodie Bugle suggests that the milk comes from a herd local to the dairy and plus it is unpasteurised. So it does score some points on the ethical scale. No matter though, in my opinion Tunworth is a handsome devil of a cheese to eat and in the past, I have been known to devour the best part of a round before going to bed and embarking on some hallucinatory journey, early on Boxing Day morning.

And however uncomfortable ghosts the may be, that come to plague me in the night; my excuse is always the same as old Ebenezer Scrooge. That their visitation was the result of an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard or a crumb of cheese. Never that last glass of Cockburns.

No, never.

This isn't the ultimate cheeseboard by the way, this is just some naff stock photo fliched from Microsoft Office, you can find the real ultimate cheeseboard here.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Fancy Footwork

This is a ZAMPONE. Not to be confused with ZAMBONI, though you could grease an ice rink with it. (Ok, I used that joke in the last cookbook, sorry.) But this is a different recipe. I wanted to see what would happen if left out all the skin inside and just used a good sausage stuffing. Lovely stiches arent they? My mutha would say you shoulda bina surgeon. Trust me, I had to use every blade in the house to bone and stich this. A carbon steel buffalo skinner to cut through the skin is essential and an exacto knife to poke holes through which you pass a trussing needle. It's definitely not sharp enough on its own. So this shapely gam will cure in the fridge for a week with salt, coriander, pepper, bay, etc. Then it will be gently poached for a few hours, then I think roasted so the skin gets crispy.There's a hefty layer of fat beneath. Betty Grable, eat your heart out.

And here it is after simmering for a few hours then popping in the oven to roast. It came out perfectly crunchy on the outside, sweet and fatty on the inside. You defintiely don't need to add more skin to the stuffing, as with a coteghino. Sliced nicely too. I brought it to a hoodie party last night and it was gobbled.

Friday, 7 December 2012

SUGAR AND SPICE – Make these special edible Christmas gifts for your family and friends this year..... they so delicious you may just treat yourself instead!

Mango and passionfruit jellies
 A great gift for a dinner party host, find some lovely white cardboard boxes and your once opened your host will be delighted by the golden glow of these gorgeous jellies.
Makes approximately 48 jellies.

500ml mango puree (approximately 2 large mangoes pureed in a food processor)
¼ cup passionfruit juice (strained from the pulp of approximately 6 large passion fruit)
1 cup sugar
½ cup liquid glucose
1 tablespoon lemon juice
12 (20g) gelatin leaves
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup corn flour

1. Grease and line an 18cm x 28cm pan with baking paper.
2. Combine the mango puree, passionfruit juice, sugar and glucose in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil over a high heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 15 minutes until thick and ‘jammy’. It should be reduced and thick with a translucent appearance.
3. Add the lemon juice and cook for a further 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
Place the gelatin leaves into a medium mixing bowl and cover with cold water, allow to soak for 5 minutes.
4. Drain the gelatin leaves well and add to the hot mango mixture, whisk well to combine.
5. Pour into the prepared pan and refrigerate uncovered for 4 hours or overnight.
Once set remove from the refrigerator and turn out the jelly onto another piece of baking paper, allow to come to room temperature. Cut the jelly into 2cm squares.
6. Sift together the icing sugar and corn flour in a large bowl and toss the jellies in the mixture. Sprinkle a thick layer of the icing sugar and corn flour into the base of cardboard cake box and carefully pack in the jellies making sure they are not touching, layer with baking paper if needed. Sprinkle well with the remaining icing sugar and corn flour and store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

food dept. fact: When packaging these for gifts use small cardboard boxes or paper bags and sprinkle liberally with the icing sugar and corn flour mixture. If they are stored in plastic bags or plastic containers they will sweat and become sticky.

 Cardamom and orange truffles
A delicious and easy little chocolatey treat to serve with an after-dinner coffee.
Makes approx. 24 truffles

150g dark chocolate, finely chopped
100g 70% cocoa chocolate, finely chopped
1 orange
½ cup cream
4 cardamom pods, broken open to release flavour
1/3 cup Dutch cocoa, for coating

1. Combine the chocolates in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
2.Using a vegetable peeler cut off 2 strips of zest from the orange. Combine the zest with the cream and cardamom pods in a small saucepan over a medium heat and bring to a simmer.
3. Once simmering remove from the heat and cover the cream with the lid of the saucepan. Allow to stand for 30 minutes to infuse the flavours.
4. Return the saucepan to a medium heat and bring back to a simmer. Strain the hot cream over the chopped chocolates and stir until the chocolate has melted.
5. Refrigerate until firm and then scoop teaspoonsful of the mixture, roll into balls and toss in cocoa. 

Indian spiced nuts
These nuts were a huge hit at a local school night market in Sydney, they are deliciously spicy with just the right amount of heat. So keep them in mind for your next fete or picnic.

Makes approximately 500g

• 1 egg white
• ¼ cup raw sugar
• 1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes
500g mixed raw nuts eg cashews, pecan, macadamia, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts
¼ cup peptias (pumpkin seeds) 
1.  Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Place the egg white into a large mixing bowl and whisk until foamy.
2.Add the sugar, spices, garlic powder and salt to the egg whites and whisk through.
3.Add the nuts and pepitas to the egg white and spice mixture, mix well to ensure that all of the nuts are thoroughly coated.
4.Spread the nut mixture onto large, lined baking trays and spread out so that the nuts are in a single layer.
5.Bake for 15 minutes, remove the trays from the oven and reduce the oven to 125ºC (250ºF). Stir the nuts to break them up and return to the oven for another 10 minutes until the nuts are golden brown. Carefully watch for the last 5 minutes so that the nuts don’t burn.
6.Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the trays. Once cold break up the nuts and store in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Maple and cinnamon nuts
These nuts are totally and utterly irresistable, the festive spicy aromas coming from your oven, will fill your house with Christmas cheer. Watch them dissappear at your next drinks party.
Makes approx 750g

250g raw blanched almonds
250g raw pecans
250g raw cashews
60g butter
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC (300ºF). Combine the nuts on a large lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes until the nuts are golden.
2. Melt the butter in a large deep frying pan over a medium heat. Add the brown sugar, maple syrup, spices and salt. Stir until the sugar has melted.
3.Increase to a medium high heat, add the nuts and toss well to coat in the sugar and spice mixture.
4. Continue stirring for 5 minutes until you can smell the sugar caramelizing on the nuts. Be careful not to burn the nuts and sugar.
5. Pour the nuts onto a large lined tray and allow to cool. Once cold break up the nuts and store in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Strawberry and vanilla conserve
When strawberries are at their peak and inexpensive make a batch of this beautiful conserve to give away as gifts.
Makes 4 cups conserve

1 kg strawberries
750g sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 lemon
1. Hull the strawberries and if any of the strawberries are large, cut in halves or quarters to make them all roughly the same size. Do not wash the strawberries, if needed, give them a quick rub over with a damp cloth.
2.  Combine the strawberries and sugar in a large open boiler and toss gently. Allow to stand at room temperature for 3-4 hours and stir gently every hour.
3. Place 3 saucers in the freezer; this is used later in the recipe to test the setting of the jam. Place the strawberries and sugar over a medium-low heat and cook until the sugar has dissolved, stir occasionally.
4.  Cut the vanilla bean in half both lengthways and cross ways to end up with 4 pieces. Scrap the seeds from the beans and add both the pod and seeds to the strawberries.
5.  Juice the lemon and add juice with any collected pulp to the pot. If there are any lemon seeds add these to the pot, be careful to remember how many go into the pot so you can remove them later. As strawberries are naturally low in pectin the lemon pulp and seeds help set the conserve.
6. Bring the pot to the boil over the highest setting on your stove. Once it is boiling rapidly begin to time for 8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and place a teaspoonful of the conserve onto one of the chilled saucers. Allow it to stand for 1 minute and then run your finger through the conserve to check if it is jelling. The conserve should wrinkle and remain separated. If this does not return the pot to a high heat and continue to cook for another 3 minutes. Test again.
7. Once the conserve is jelling allow to stand for 15 minutes. Skim off any remaining scum and remove the lemon seeds.
8. Pour into sterilized jars and cover with the lids.
9. Store for up to 6 months, refrigerate once opened.

Spiced gingerbread star garland
You can make this cookies into a festive garland but you could also hang them individually with a beautiful ribbon on your Christmas tree.
Makes enough gingerbread stars for 2 garlands, this will depend on the size of star cutters you use.
125g butter, at room temperature
½ cup, firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
1 egg
2 ½ cups plain flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
plain flour, to dust
1 tablespoon finely grated glace ginger, use a microplane
½ cup demarara sugar
decorative ribbon, for threading
1. Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup and egg yolk and beat until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda.
2. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Press dough into a disc. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 180 ºC (350ºF). Place the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper and roll out to 4mm thickness. Use a selection of different size star cutters to cut out shapes. Place on to lined baking trays and using a 1cm plain piping nozzle cut a hole in the centre of each star.
4. Using your finger tips rub together the glace ginger and demerara sugar in a small bowl.
5. Sprinkle over the star biscuits and bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven. Transfer to a rack to cool.
6. Once cold thread the star biscuits on to the decorative ribbon and sprinkle with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

Mulled wine pears
So you like wine and cheese? These beautiful spicy poached pears are magnificient as part of a cheese platter, try them on a cracker with some stilton or a creamy camembert. For a sweet sensation serve warm as a dessert with double cream or a rum and raisen ice cream.
Makes 8 pears

2 bottles dry red wine
3 cups sugar
2 oranges
4 cardamom pods, broken open to release flavour
4 small sticks cinnamon
4 cloves
4 star anise
1 vanilla bean, split
8 packham pears

1. Combine the wine and sugar in a large deep saucepan. Peel the zest from the oranges with a peeler and add the peel to the saucepan.
2. Add the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and vanilla bean. Bring to a simmer and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the flavours.
3. Carefully peel the pears leaving the stems attached. Stand the pears in the wine mixture in the saucepan. Cut a piece of baking paper that is the same size as the saucepan, push the paper down on top of the pears to keep them submerged in the wine.
4. Bring the wine and spices to a simmer over a medium-low heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, turn the pears, recover with the baking paper and continue to cook for another 20 minutes or until the pears are tender when pierced with a skewer.
5. Carefully arrange the pears in a large sterilized jar and pour over the wine and spices, cover the jar and allow to stand for 2-3 days before serving. Once opened store in the refrigerator.

Oat, pistachio and cumin crackers
Looking for something different to have with your cheese? These crackers make a delicious addition to a cheese plate. Package up with a delicious brie or crumbly cheddar and give to a foodie friend.
Makes approximately 36

2 cups rolled oats
1½ cups wholemeal flour
80g raw pistachio kernels
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes
100g butter, diced
½ cup water
extra, sea salt and pepper, for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 180 ºC (350ºF).
2. Place the rolled oats into the bowl of a food processor and process for 30 seconds until the oats are finely chopped but not as fine as flour.
3. Add the wholemeal flour, pistachios, cumin seeds, brown sugar, salt and butter; pulse until the mixture resembles course breadcrumbs.
4. Add the water and pulse until the mixture comes together into a ball. Turn onto the bench and roll into a log, 5cm in diameter, wrap and chill for 30 minutes or until firm. Slice into ½ cm rounds and place onto a lined baking tray and sprinkle with extra salt flakes and pepper.
5. Bake in the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container 2 weeks.