Monday, October 23, 2006

Kitchen Timesaver #2 - Smoked Paprika

The seductive smokey aroma and flavour of smoked paprika provide authenticity to many spanish dishes, and this versatile ingredient also works well with various other cuisines - delicious added to pork and bean dishes (especially handy if you want, but don't have, smoked pork).

Fresh smoked paprika can deliver a powderful flavour hit so use sparingly. I choose the dolce (sweet) or agrodolce (bittersweet) varieties that have a deep velvety flavour. Smoked paprika is also available picante for those who like it hot.

You can find smoked paprika (usually in delightfully brightly-decorated square tins) at gourmet food shops, Spanish groceries, speciality spice suppliers and some markets. I buy mine from Rita's Coffee and Nuts at the South Melbourne Market.

Smoked Paprika contributes a wonderful flavour in gazpacho soup. You can make gazpacho without smoked paprika, but this powerful ingredient turns this recipe from mediocre to sublime. The first time I made gazpacho, I dutifully roasted the capsicum, then picked and rubbed to remove the blackened skin - a tedious, time-consuming and messy job. Adding a pinch of smoked paprika delivers convincing and beautifully mellow smokey-charred notes, without all the hassle.

Kirky's Kitchen recipes using Smoked Paprika:
Quick & Easy Gazpacho


Kitchen Timesaver #1 - Braun Multiquick Hand Blender & attachments

This is the best blender/hand mixer system I have ever used or owned. I love it for the following features:
  • Easy to use and clean.
  • Convenient and easy to remove and interchange attachments.
  • Excellent (and variable) blending power.
  • Two different sized blender jugs (500ml and 1L) suit large or small jobs. Broad range of fast or slow speeds.
  • Neat design details like small drainage holes in the jugs so that water doesn't collect in the base when you tip them upside to drain after washing.
  • Jugs have non-slip bases that are removeable and convert to a handy lid to seal and store contents (I'm all for anything that reduces washing up).
  • Wand style blender can be used in directly in a saucepan, bowl, plastic cup or other vessel (again with the washing up!).
One of my favourite recipes is delicious gazpacho soup. It takes less than 5 mins to make, and all you need to wash up is knife, chopping board and blender-chopper. You store the soup in the jug you made it in.

Kirky's Kitchen recipes using the Braun Multiquick Hand Blender:
Quick & Easy Gazpacho


Friday, October 13, 2006

Quick and easy summer snack - Gazpacho

With Melbourne's soaring temperatures reaching record highs, all day yesterday I was looking forward to getting home and whipping up a batch of this refreshing and delicious gazpacho.

This recipe incorporates a couple a couple of my favourite kitchen timesavers (click on links to view detailed blog entries):

Kitchen Timesaver #1 - Braun Multiquick Hand Blender & attachments
Kitchen Timesaver #2 - Smoked Paprika

The first time I made gazpacho, I dutifully roasted the smoky capsicum, then picked and rubbed to remove the blackened skin - a tedious, time-consuming and messy job. Adding a pinch of smoked paprika delivers convincing and beautifully mellow smoky-charred notes, without all the hassle.

Gazpacho Recipe
  • 4 med tomatoes, stems and cores removed
  • 2 lebanese cucumbers, stems removed
  • 1 red capsicum, stem, seeds and whitish fin membranes removed
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 1/4 loaf sour dough (approx 150g), crusts removed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/5 cup sherry vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup water (or a little more if you prefer a thinner consistency)
  • 1/3 tsp smoked paprika
  • tabasco to taste (I use 3 good shakes)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Cut vegetables and bread into pieces 1-2inches.
  2. Put everything into a large blender and process on high speed until smooth enough for your taste. I like my gazpacho smoothish with a bit of texture and visible green and red specs
  3. That's it! Pop it in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to allow the bread to soften completely and for all the flavours to mellow and blend. You may like to stir though more water as gazpacho tends to thicken on standing.
Gazpacho is traditionally served in a bowl with ice cubes and finely diced cucumber, capsicum and/or crouton garnish. However I like to serve in chunky wine glasses and drink it as a filling and refreshing liquid snack.
This recipe makes about 4 serves (although I am quite capable of drinking the entire quantity over a 24 hour period)

Variations writes "There are about as many gazpacho recipes as there are Spanish cooks." Here are some variations:
  • All quantities are in the above recipe are approximate - increase or decrease according to taste or availability.
  • You can use tomato juice instead of fresh tomatoes.
  • Additional/alternative ingredients include: chicken stock instead of water; green capsicum; red onion; celery; yellow tomatoes.
  • Add sherry, chicken stock or vodka.
  • Diced serrano ham or hard boiled egg garnish.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Roast Poussin Dinner

Roast Poussin Dinner Posted by Hello

Poussins are young chickens sold as a whole bird, no more than about 500g - typically enough for one adult meal. They are generally more flavourful and tender than adult birds. Poussins are sometimes known as Spring Chicken, Coquelet, and occaisionally (erroneously) as spatchcoks.

The word spatchcock is more corectly used as a verb meaning to prepare a bird by splitting open, butterfly style, for grilling or roasting, or as an adjective describing a bird that has been so prepared.

This is a simple and hearty recipe, using 3 of my favourite cooking shortcuts:
  1. Glad bake - non-sticking baking paper. I rarely bake or roast without it - it stops the appetizingly browned skin of chickens and potatoes from tearing off and sticking to the pan. Also a great timesaver for those of us who loath washing up.
  2. Olive Oil Spray - A quick, and way to apply a light, even coat of olive oil with out making a mess.
  3. Kitchen Blow Torch - A power tool for the kitchen! In this recipe the poussins, being so small, may be fully cooked before they have had time to develop a crispy golden-brown skin. A quick once over with the blow torch soon solves this problem. The blow torch is essential for setting the top of a creme brulee, and useful for charring the skin of capsicums (bell peppers).

Roast Poussin Dinner Posted by Hello

Roast Poussin Dinner - Recipe:

  • pumkin
  • carrot
  • parsnips
  • potatoes
-scrubbed and cut into bite size chunks.

Tossed with
  • unpeeled garlic cloves
  • finely chopped marjoram & rosemary
  • salt and cracked black pepper
Line a roasting pan with glad bake and toss vegetables in the pan with a generous slurp of olive oil.
Roast in hot oven for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally, adding
  • butter beans (topped and tailed)
about 15mins before cooked.

  • poussins (one per serve)
Each is stuffed with
  • fresh thyme
  • lime quarter,
  • whole, peeled garlic clove,
  • bay leaf,
  • 3 sage leaves
Spray the outside of the poussins with
  • olive oil
then sprinkle with
  • maldon salt
  • paprika
  • cracked black pepper.
Roast on rack in hot oven for 45 mins approx, sat w breast down for first 20 mins, then turn breast side up. Poussins (like full sized chooks) are cooked when skewer poked into thickest part of the flesh (where the thigh joins the body) and juices run clear not pink.
If they still look a little pallid when they are cooked, give them a quick once over with the blowtorch.

Cut the birds into quarters lengthways, discard the stuffing, and serve on a large platter surounded by the roasted vegetables.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Fish Soup with Mussels and Potatoes

This is a favourite of mine - somehow both light and hearty at the same time. The recipe is loosely based on a soup served to me by my friend Sarah, which in turn was loosely based on a Jamie Oliver recipe. I have included quantities in this recipe as a guide, but they are really very flexible, so don't worry about measuring or counting too closely.

Fish and Mussel Soup

  • 3 largish Kipfler potatoes (or similar variety of potato that will hold shape when boiled)

Cut into slices approx 1/2 cm. Put in a large saucepan and cover with water. Boil until tender, and then add...

  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into thin wedges. These are nicer if you peel them before slicing, but I can never be bothered.
  • 2 firm white fish fillets, cut across the grain into 1 inch pieces. John Dory works very well.
  • 1/2 glass dry white wine.
  • More water to cover if necessary.
  • Pinch of saffron (optional).

Simmer gently until fish is just cooked.

  • Add about 12 mussels, cleaned and de-bearded.

Put the lid on and simmer gently a further 5 mins.

Meanwhile mix:

  • one clove garlic (finely minced)
  • the juice and zest of one lime or 1/2 a lemon
  • 3 tablespoons of best quality mayonnaise (home made if you have the energy).

Spoon the soup into bowls, arranging mussels attractively on the top. Sprinkle with torn coriander and basil leaves. Serve the mayonnaise separately so your guests can drizzle it over their soup to taste.


Monday, May 30, 2005

Yogurt with walnuts, honey, rhubarb and rosewater.

Mum brings me huge quantities of rhubarb from her garden. I chop it into 5 cm lengths and stew with a little brown sugar, a splash of water, and some flavourings of choice: cinnamon, cardamom, or rosewater. It doesn't take long to cook down, then I freeze portions in small plastic tubs, and I have an instant resource for puddings and breakfasts.

Yogurt with walnuts, honey, rhubarb and rosewater.

This is a simple but exoticly flavoured dessert or breakfast dish:
Fresh walnuts, roughly chopped, drenched with honey, topped with plain (unsweetened) youghurt, and rhubarb stewed with rose water.

Note to self: read the following articles
Tasteful Food Photography at O’Reilly Digital Media (at
An Insider’s Look At Food Photography at shutterbug


Tomato and Cheese Strata

Strata is basically a savoury bread and butter pudding.
This recpe is inspired by one found on ibeth's blog.
It's delicious as it is, or it could be dressed up with the addition of ham, mushrooms, asparagus, or spinach.

Tomato and Cheese Strata

1/2 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
6 smallish tomatoes, chopped (2/3 cup)
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs *
1/3 large stale ciabatta roll, cubed
3 Tbsp ricotta **
2 Tbsp sharp cheddar, crumbled
5 eggs
1/3 cup cream
1/4 cup milk
salt, pepper
2 Tbsp grated parmesan

  1. Line a small lasagna dish with silicone paper, and preheat oven to 230°C
  2. Fry onions until lightly golden ***
  3. Add garlic and fry for further 2 mins
  4. Add tomatoes and herbs to the pan and heat thru.
  5. Stir the bread into the tomato and add a little boiling water if too dry (bread should be just moistened but not soggy)
  6. Spread the tomato bread mixture in the base of the lasagna dish
  7. Use a teaspoon to drop little dabs of ricotta over the tomato layer
  8. Crumble cheddar over the top
  9. Lightly beat together eggs, cream, milk, salt & pepper, then pour over the tomato and cheese.
  10. Sprinkle parmesan over all
  11. Bake for approx 25 mins, until set and golden on top.

I served this with fried mushrooms and steamed spinach. A salad of thinly sliced fennel, dressed with parmesan shavings, olive oil and lemon juice, helped balance the richness of the meal.

* I used parsley, basil, marjoram and thyme. The thyme was a bit overpowering in the final analysis, and I would probably leave it out next time.

** The original recipe called for goat cheese, but I wanted to use up ricotta I had in the fridge. The ricotta alone probably would have been too bland, so I pepped it up by adding sharp cheddar.

***When I think of it, I fry up twice as much onion as I will need, and freeze half to use later. Having ready-fried onions on hand is a great short cut when you want to throw something together with the minimum of effort.

More strata recipes can be found on and


Sunday, May 22, 2005

Chocolate Cabochons

These gorgeously glossy chocolate treats caught my eye as Mum and I were browsing at the Southbank Sunday Market this afternoon.

They looked almost too exquisite to eat, like highly polished marble baubles decorating the kitchen shelves. I admired them for a couple of days before I eventually ate one, taking small bites and savouring the authentic fresh flavour of the raspberry filling. I enjoyed the remaining two, passionfruit and champagne filled, over the successive two evenings.

Baked Egg Custard

egg custard with ginger and banana
The Situation:
I have an upset stomach, the detailed symptoms of which you really don't want to know about. Doctor says that it's probably an irritated bowel, brought on by a mild bout of food poisoning a week ago. She's prescribed lactobacillus (in yoghurt or fermented milk), bland diet and patience.
I'm feeling very delicate and the mildest food smells set off waves of nausea.
I really have no appetite, but I gotta eat something...
Mum suggested eggs - easy to digest and should help 'set' my stomach. Must be a recipe that is quick to prepare, and gentle on my delicate palate.

Baked Egg Custards
1 & 1/2 cups milk
1/4 fresh vanilla pod
1/3 cup powdered white sugar
2 eggs

Slit the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the milk. Throw the pod into the milk too.
Add the sugar, and warm the milk to just below boiling.
Leave the vanilla to infuse until milk is tepid.
Remove the vanilla pod.
Add the eggs and whisk gently just until eggs & milk are thoroughly combined.
Pour into little ramekin dishes (you'll need about 3 or 4 for this quantity). Grate nutmeg over the top.
Stand the ramekins in a baking pan, and carefully pour hot water around the ramekin.
Bake in a med-low oven (160 deg C; 375 deg F) for approx 50 mins.
Custards are cooked when their wibbly wobbly texture looks settled, and a sharp knife inserted comes out clean.

I've served this with sliced banana (for potassium) and sliced crystallized ginger (to fight the nausea).

[updated 11:08 pm - Well this worked a treat! Took only about 10 mins to prepare, including washing up and garnish. Was delicious yet mild enough to not offend my sensitive stomach.]


What's the point?

I've shopped, selected, planned, chopped, stirred, improvised, sauteed, steamed, blended, created, drained, plated, garnished, admired, served, savoured, shared, devoured and digested...
Food, the planning, preparation and eating of, is one my favourite pleasures. This blog will document my culinary experiments, triumphs and failures.
Bon appetito!