A lovely seasonal panzanella salad


A lovely seasonal salad

Today I made an Italian panzanella salad, using up the stale Irrewarra ciabatta rolls (I can’t bear to throw them away), some really ripe tomatoes and red peppers left over from a photo shoot. I came across Cath Claringbold’s recipe a few years ago when I was doing the styling on Good Weekend magazine. Believe me, it is one of those salads that you have to make.
A few tips:
It’s important to keep the capsicum whole when grilling (or roasting in the oven –as I do) so that all the delicious juices are retained. In fact, I hold the peppers over the torn bread whilst I’m peeling them, so all the juices drip into the bowl for extra flavour. Use a sieve to catch any pips if they annoy you.
The bread: the last time I made this, my bread rolls were so stale that I couldn’t tear them or even cut them with a knife. So I soaked them whole in the dressing until they were soft enough to tear up.
The anchovies: I strongly suggest Ortiz anchovies here, as they are magnificent. If you don’t like anchovies, these may just change your mind.
The capers really need a rinse if they’re packed in salt or vinegar. I prefer to use salted capers.
The olives –always buy good quality olives with the pips in. It is very easy to squash fat juicy olives with the back of a knife and remove the pips. The flavour is much better.
The basil- tear it gently with your hands as it can go black when you cut it with a knife.
And that’s it, really. Good quality ingredients, really ripe tomatoes and fragrant basil –summer on a plate. Enjoy.

Cath Claringbold’s Panzanella

2 red capsicums
2 yellow capsicums
400g very stale ciabatta
1 small red chilli
2 cloves garlic
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6oog vine ripened tomatoes
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch basil
50g good quality anchovy fillets
50g baby capers
100g pitted black olives

Grill the capsicum whole until blackened all over, place in a bowl and cover with clingfilm.
When they are cool enough to handle, remove the skin and seeds.
Cut or tear each pepper into 8 pieces.
Tear the bread into rough bite-size pieces. Finely chop the chilli and crush it with the garlic and a good pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle until it is a smooth paste.
Puree one tomato and mix with the chilli garlic mix. Whisk together the red wine vinegar and olive oil to make a simple vinaigrette, then season with salt and pepper.
Mix two thirds of the vinaigrette into the tomato puree, pour over the bread and toss. The bread will absorb the liquid.
Pick, wash and dry the basil leaves.
Tear the anchovy fillets and rinse the capers.
In a large bowl, bring all the ingredients together, except for the remaining vinaigrette.
Add the basil leaves last, tearing the bigger leaves.
Season with salt and pepper and serve on a large platter with a drizzle of the remaining vinaigrette over the top.

Serves 4.


What’s that in my freezer?!?

When it comes to my freezer, I’m afraid that I don’t use it as well as I might. Even if I look at it from either end of the emotional scale of contemporary freezer thought, it’s an act of desperation or a whim of fancy; a depository for some fridge contents (usually some sort of raw meat or fish) that I haven’t got around to cooking before it looks like it might be going off, or a secret hideaway for some already frozen item from the supermarket that I feel belongs in a well stocked freezer and that I might, in the near future, whip up something splendid with.

After reading Matt Preston’s article about the contents of his freezer, I thought I’d better check out my own. So here is my list, warts and all. No editing, no omissions.

1. frozen raspberries

I always try to have frozen raspberries at hand, for making raspberry muffins and raspberry sorbet (see recipes below).

They’re inexpensive and seem to keep well.

Actually, I found a second bag of frozen raspberries, so now I’m doubly prepared (and obviously unaware of exactly what was already in there).

pear and raspberry muffins photo Marina Oliphant

pear and raspberry muffins photo Marina Oliphant

Pear and raspberry muffins

2 cups self raising flour

1 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs

½ (half) cup canola oil

¾ (three quarters) cup buttermilk

zest 1 lemon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup tinned pear pieces, chopped

1 cup frozen raspberries

2 tbsp rolled oats for topping

2 tbsp raw sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 170C fanforced (190C conventional).

Line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.

Mix flour with brown sugar in a large bowl and set aside.

Whisk eggs with oil, buttermilk, lemon zest and vanilla.

Gently stir into flour mix until just combined. The mixture will be thick and slightly lumpy. Do not over mix or your muffins will be tough.

Fold through pear and raspberries.

Place in 12 muffin cases. Sprinkle oats and raw sugar over the top. Bake in oven for 20 -25 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.

makes 12.

tip: to make buttermilk, mix 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup of whole milk. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

raspberry sorbet

This is not a traditional icecream recipe, but it still has great ice cream-like texture. Not only is it quick and easy to make, you don’t need an ice cream machine. If you don’t mind the pips, you can put the raspberries straight into the mixer with the egg whites and sugar.

2 punnets raspberries (or 300g frozen raspberries)

½ (half) cup caster sugar

2 large egg whites

Press raspberries through a sieve to get rid of the pips. (If using frozen berries, allow them to defrost first).

Place raspberries, sugar and egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk on high speed for 5 minutes, until more than doubled in volume.

Place mixture in a 1 litre container and freeze for 4 hours (or overnight if possible).

Remove from freezer to serve.

makes 1 litre.

2. atlantic salmon fillets

These came about when I ended up with an entire salmon from a photoshoot.

I actually took off the fillets myself (I’d seen it on Masterchef!).

Fillets neatly stored in between silicon baking paper in plastic containers. It must have been a Martha Stewart moment for me! Now defrosting in fridge for standard salmon recipe (see below).

teriyaki salmon with shiitake mushrooms

 photo Marina Oliphant


4 salmon fillets (about 150g each)

¼ cup mirin + ¼ cup extra

½ cup salt reduced soy sauce + ¼ cup extra

fresh lime, to juice

1 punnet fresh shiitake mushrooms

2 tsp caster sugar (optional)

steamed vegetables to serve

Cut each salmon into 3 bite size pieces.

Place mirin and soy in a large shallow bowl with the salmon and set aside in the fridge to marinate for 5-10 minutes.

Slice the mushrooms thinly, then place in a small saucepan with extra ¼ cup mirin and soy. Add sugar to taste and cook over medium low heat for 5 minutes until the mushrooms are softened and the sauce is slightly reduced. Set aside.

Heat oven grill to high. Place salmon pieces on a foil lined oven tray and place under grill for a few minutes until the top of the salmon becomes opaque. Turn pieces to cook the other side.

Remove from grill and serve with mushrooms and steamed vegetables.

Serves 4.

3. frozen vegetables

Frozen baby peas, in my opinion, are better than fresh (unless you have your own plants that you can harvest and cook straight away). Peas that have been sitting around tend to get a floury flavour. These are a staple when you don’t have fresh greens, or need to add something to a pasta or soup. Both packs open, in different compartments of the freezer, unaware each of the other’s existence.

Frozen corn is also always there, expressly for adding to chicken and corn soup.

Frozen broad beans –I have these both podded and double podded. Quite good in a warm salad or pasta, both packs opened already and held together with rubber bands.

Useful on a photo shoot when the real thing is not in season yet (fresh broad beans are my preference, and I try to grow them and share, against my better judgement, with the neighbourhood possums).

By the way, I pick up the double podded beans from Minh Phat Asian grocery, just of Victoria St Richmond.

4. Ice bricks and blocks

Ice bricks for sporting injuries and iceblocks for drinks or chilling blanched vegetables (although I never seem to have enough iceblocks, which is rather silly, as that should be the number one item in the freezer. Note to Self –make some more ice blocks.)

5. Fake ice cream

You never know when you’re going to need it for a photoshoot, so that’s where it lives. Vanilla –if you’re wondering. I’ve put the recipe on Pinterest.

6. Kaffir limes + leaves

The limes were a gift from Jenny, who has a tree. The leaves were from a shoot- I couldn’t bear to throw the box away, even though I already have a small tree in the garden. Silly really, so now they’re in the bin.

7. Rosella flowers

From the wild hibiscus, these flowers (expensive) were from a cook book shoot. Again, I couldn’t bear to waste them (never know when you might need them again!).

However, it’s been 2 years, so they may find the bin too.

8. Candlenuts

The bag is open, so I must have used some sometime, but can’t remember. I know they are useful for Asian cooking, it’s only a small bag, so they can stay.

9. Salted black beans


10. Cranberries

One large bag of beautiful whole frozen cranberries (bag open). I will use them to make cranberry sauce for Christmas. (See recipe). Also good backup for photo shoots, as you can’t get fresh cranberries at this end of the world. I have successfully defrosted these to use on a packaging shoot, too.

red cranberry sauce

400g frozen cranberries

200g caster sugar

3 tbsp fresh orange juice

zest of orange

1 tbsp brandy

75ml water

Place all ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil for 15 minutes until thick and syrupy.

11. Ginger

2 small pieces of ginger (skin on), frozen and stored in small zip lock bags (another Martha moment), unaware of each other (again!) And forgotten by me too.

12. Red currants

The pack is unopened, so I must have them in there for an emergency store, in anticipation of Christmas recipes.

13. Cherries and sour cherries

The bag of cherries is opened. I think this is from my cherry column last year, used to make cherry sorbet (see recipe).

The sour cherries are also opened, a leftover from a photo shoot.

I think I may have a frozen fruit storage fetish!?!

cherry sorbet

cherry sorbet photo Marina Oliphant

cherry sorbet photo Marina Oliphant

This is not a traditional ice cream recipe, but it still has great ice cream-like texture. Not only is it quick and easy to make, you don’t need an ice cream machine.

300g cherries

½ (half) cup caster sugar

2 large egg whites

Pip cherries and cut in half.

Place cherries in the bowl of an electric mixer with a whisk attachment and whisk on medium speed for a few minutes to break up. Add sugar and egg whites and whisk on high speed 5 minutes, until more than doubled in volume.

Place mixture in a 1 litre container and freeze for 4 hours (or overnight if possible).

Remove from freezer to serve.

makes 1 litre.

14. Tomato sugo

This really is a useful thing to freeze, as I often don’t use the entire jar of sugo. Perfect for a quick pasta (once you have defrosted the sauce in the microwave) or adding to minestrone.

15. Careme Puff pastry

Okay, this is sounding a bit designer magazine fantasy stuff, but I really do have this in my freezer. I love this puff pastry.

I also have a block of other brand frozen puff, for not sure what. Maybe I’ll get around to making Stephanie Alexander’s sausage rolls with sorrel (to use up all the sorrel in my garden).

I’ll give it 2 weeks max, then it’s out.

16. Egg whites

I think that these are essential for making French macarons. Although we recently tried them when making meringues and the results were not good.

I’ve got about 300ml.

17. Frozen scotch fillet

two types –one piece in a plastic container, ready to become grilled steak. The other, a tray of thinly sliced beef, ready for shabu shabu –the Japanese meat hot pot that you cook at the table with vegetables and noodles. I buy this frozen from the Japanese shop –either Tokyo Deli in Elsternwick, or Fujimart in Prahran.

18. Unidentified Meat

There’s a bag of some type of meat (about 1kg?), not sure exactly what, that is now defrosting on the kitchen bench. Hopefully it will become apparent, so then I can actually do something with it.

There are also 2 plastic containers with some sort of stew/ curry that are also now defrosting. More info to come on these, when I work out exactly what they are.

And finally, yet another bag of frozen, cubed meat. Again, time to find out what it is.

Which reminds me to ALWAYS mark the lids with the name of the contents and the date they were first frozen. This is actually important, as ALL food slowly deteriorates in the freezer. So you can’t store it forever.

However, when I look at my list, it’s not that bad. I must have cleaned out the freezer, not that long ago, because otherwise it would have been FAR worse. In the not too distant past here have been lots of loose pinenuts, as they escape from their rubber banded ‘quick pack’, the odd truffle, various whole citrus (limes mostly) and other bits and bobs, unlabelled and hastily put away in the hope of a later use, only to be discarded long after their use by date.

I have also been known to freeze fish off cuts/ prawn shells, etc until bin night. Especially in summer when the daily temperature can make the garbage bin very smelly. However, I then forget to dump it in the bin on the night of and hence it stays in the freezer and makes everything smell –even the iceblocks get a fish taint.

Post script:

The frozen meat turned out to be 1kg of lamb shoulder, diced. I turned this into a quick curry with Charmaine Solomon’s Korma curry paste.

The 2 plastic containers were full of some kind of stew (left over from the last lot of recipe testing for a cook book). I couldn’t be sure, so they went to the dog. Ditto, the remaining bag of frozen meat.

I have also used the frozen sugo for a quick pasta sauce and made some more iceblocks.

The freezer, having given up its secrets, is now far more manageable.

So don’t be afraid, I know you can do it too.

Oh, and I didn’t end up making cranberry sauce for Christmas, or the sausage rolls with sorrel, which now threatens to take over the vegetable garden, but that’s another column.