Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Nonna's gnocchi sauce

June 29, 2019

What a privilege to receive my friends' beloved family recipes in the lab farewell cookbook! My long-time officemate Pia went so far as to press her Italian grandmother for a record of the gnocchi sauce she makes by memory and to taste. 

We initially gave it a go on a Saturday night, but this is a quick and comforting formula that could easily be accomplished after work. I would never have thought to include grated vegetables in such a sauce, but I liked the heft they added to it. And I reckon with the vegetables on board, there's far less risk of the gnocchi coming over too gluggy or setting up like glue in your stomach.

Nonna's gnocchi sauce
(a recipe shared by Pia)

1 bottle passata
olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large carrot, grated
5-6 mushrooms, grated
a good handful of parsley, chopped
red wine
salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan, and add the garlic. When the garlic has just browned, add the carrot, mushrooms and parsley. Cook them until they start to dry out.

Slosh in some red wine and turn up the heat, cooking until the liquid has evaporated. Turn the heat back down and add the passata. Cook for a little while; add basil, salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, July 06, 2019

Vegan, gluten-free self-saucing chocolate pudding

June 29, 2019

This is a dessert recipe crying out to be made mid-winter! It comes from Mick, who was my very first supervisor when I arrived in Melbourne, and of course it's part of the lab cookbook.

This self-saucing pudding uses a trick that I would've been very skeptical of if I hadn't seen it before: it has you placing a teeny portion of cake batter in a baking tray, and then pouring half a litre of boiling water over the top! Amazingly, it doesn't turn into a curdled mess of cake clumps floating in water; rather, the cake expands in the oven and the water settles underneath, picking up all the flavour it needs to form a thick sauce. 

The other appealing features of this pudding are how diet-inclusive and pantry-friendly it is. I didn't need to shop for a single ingredient before I set to work. I will admit that I didn't have the highest of hopes for a vegan, gluten-free pudding based on rice flour, no-egg powder and only a small amount of cocoa. More fool me! The cake was plenty fluffy with a lovely crumb, and there was abundant dark, chocolatey sauce to go around.

We had a little leftover salted caramel coconut-based vegan icecream brought over by our friend Nat, and it was the perfect thing to scoop on top.

Vegan, gluten-free self-saucing chocolate pudding
(a recipe shared by Mick,
who credits it to

60g Nuttelex
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup rice flour (Mick recommends Coles' organic)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 generous teaspoons cocoa
1 teaspoon Orgran no-egg
1/2 cup soy milk

3/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups boiling water

Preheat an oven to 170°C. Lightly grease a high-walled baking dish.

In a large bowl, cream together the Nuttelex and caster sugar.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cocoa and no-egg. In turns, gradually beat these dry ingredients and the soy milk into the butter mixture, to form a cake batter. Pour the batter into the baking dish.

Sprinkle the brown sugar and cocoa over the top of the pudding. Pour the boiling water over it all, and bake for 45 minutes.

Serve with a little vegan icecream.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Samba's Jhol Momo

June 20, 2019

This article prompted a some compelling critiques about Australian food journalism on twitter, but it also alerted me to the existence of Samba's Jhol Momo, a newish Nepalese place tucked just off Sydney Road. They specialise in jhol momo - hot dumplings served in a thick broth - and have two dishes: meat and vegetarian.

We grabbed two bowls of the vego option ($10 each) and settled in. There are jars of good quality chilli sauce on the tables, so I immediately spooned some over my dish. This is probably unnecessary - the broth is brimming with spiciness already. It's perfect winter food, with maybe a hint of Sechuan pepper to really add to the kick. The dumplings themselves are freshly made and filled with a mix of veggies, garlic and ginger, but it's the broth that really shines here. 

It's great to have another cheap and delicious option in the neighbourhood - this is a perfect place for us to stop off on the way home for a fast dinner when we need a break from Kevabs.


Samba's Jhol Momo
528A Sydney Rd, Brunswick (entry on Blyth St)
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way to a fairly crowded interior, with regular tables. You order at a low counter. The toilets are unisex, but quite a trek through some narrow paths and uneven ground to the corner of the carpark.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Joma's lemon cordial

June 5, 2019

This cordial is a simple and appealing recipe from the lab cookbook that I didn't expect to get around to until next summer. But it's very much lemon season right now, and we've received lots of lemons from friends.

The only challenge remaining was to buy tartaric and citric acids, which I've never cooked with before. It turns out that citric acid sits near the baking powder in most supermarkets. Tartaric acid is in the same spot but stocked less frequently. After a few false starts I tracked it down at the SUPA IGA on Sydney Road. 

I made just half the quantity listed below and still made lots of cordial with just 3 lemons (two-and-a-bit of the bottles pictured above). Recipe-sharers Chris, Freya and Roy recommend freezing it into icy-poles, or drinking it with soda water, but at this time of year I'm content just to dilute it with regular ol' tap water.

Joma's lemon cordial
(a recipe shared by Chris, Freya and Roy,
who credit it to the Nursing Mother's Association Cookbook)

juice and grated rind of 6 lemons
2 kg sugar
30g tartaric acid
60g citric acid
8 cups boiling water

In a very large bowl, mix together the lemon juice and rind, sugar, and acids. Pour over the boiling water slowly. Mix until the sugar is dissolved and allow the mixture to cool. 

If you want to, strain out the rind (I didn't). Bottle and seal the cordial. Dilute with lots of water or soda water; enjoy it as a drink or freeze it into icy-poles.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Ottolenghi birthday feast

May 26, 2019

I had a big birthday recently and hosted a shindig at one of our old favourite pubs with a bunch of mates. I finished the night loaded down with presents, including a stunning set of Global knives from my work colleagues. They supplemented the knives with a box full of produce, providing the key ingredients for three (3!) different Ottolenghi dishes. I had left Sunday completely free, so I spent the day working my way through all of them. 

There were a couple of pretty easy dishes: cauliflower, pomegranate and pistachio salad from Simple and roasted pumpkin wedges with chestnut, cinnamon & fresh bay leaves from the web. The cauliflower was pretty excellent - a mix of grated raw and tender roasted cauli, with the classic Ottolenghi additions of pomegranate and a variety of herbs.

The pumpkin was a bit let down by our inability to locate fresh bay leaves and a general ambivalence towards chestnuts - the maple and sage roasting mix worked well though. 

The final dish (pictured at the top) was the most complex: butternut squash with ginger tomatoes and lime yoghurt from Nopi - we used the version on Ottolenghi's website. There are a lot of steps to this - roast the pumpkin, roast the tomatoes for two hours with a spice paste and make up a yoghurt sauce. None of it's very hard, but it's a time consuming affair - you really need to have most of the day free to make this work. It's worth the time though - the ginger tomatoes provide a sharp, acidic burst that cuts through the sweet pumpkin, while the yoghurt smooths things out and the peanuts and shallots give you some crunch. It's a showstopper of a side dish.

Butternut pumpkin with ginger tomatoes & lime yoghurt
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Ottolenghi's website)

1 medium butternut pumpkin, unpeeled, halved lengthways, seeds removed, then cut into 1 inch slices
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 tomatoes, halved lengthways
3cm piece of ginger, finely grated
1 red chilli, seeded diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons palm sugar
salt and pepper

120g Greek yoghurt
zest and juice of a lime
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
1/2 cup roasted cashews
10g crispy fried shallots

Preheat the oven to 240°C.

Mix the pumpkin with two tablespoons of the oil, two teaspoons of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Spread them out on a baking tray and bake for 40 minutes until golden-brown. Set aside.

Turn the oven down to 170°C. Pop the tomatoes on a baking tray, skin-side down. Sprinkle each of them with salt, drizzle with the rest of the olive oil and cook for 80 minutes.

While they're baking make up your paste - mix together the ginger, chilli, garlic, sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a thick paste. Spoon this mixture on top of the tomatoes and bake for another 40 minutes, until it caramelises. 

Stir the lime juice, zest and cardamom through the yoghurt. 

Spread the pumpkin slices out and top with the tomatoes, lime yoghurt, nuts, coriander and crispy shallots and serve.