guest cheffing at casa del murray

zucchini blossoms 

Now don’t get me wrong. I loove my little apartment with its balcony that’s just big enough to hold my BBQ and my petite herb garden, its beautiful parquetry floors, and of course its view of the magnificent Sydney harbour bridge. But sometimes when I’m playing in my cramped little dishwasher-less kitchen with its 1960s oven, I do long for a more spacious modern version. So whenever the opportunity arises to make a guest chef appearance at a friend’s house, I tend to jump at the opportunity.

I’ve been lucky enough to score a cooking gig at my dear friends, The Murrays a few times now. And a sweet deal it is. Not only is their kitchen spacious and well equipped with a dishwasher and everything else a cook could wish for. It also tends to be lovely and sunny on a Sunday afternoon. Perfect for pottering around with a glass of aged Hunter Semillon (they also have an amazing cellar but that’s a whole other story). And on top of all this Mrs M loves to shop. So I just provide her with a list and the hunting and gathering (OK there’s pretty much no hunting) is all done by the time I arrive.

Knowing that Mrs M was planning a visit to the Pyrmont Growers Markets the morning before, I decided to make the most of this and put in an order for some pretty zucchini flowers. Although this would mean overcoming my fear of frying (deep frying that is), I figured that it would be worth it for a dainty starter of the blossoms stuffed with mozzarella, anchovy and basil.

Pretty much the only good thing I can see that has come out of the Atkins diet and the associated carb phobia is that pasta is becoming more of a delicacy for some people. A treat for special occasions rather than a boring staple. So knowing I would have an assistant in the form of the budding chef 14 year old Josh, some hand made pasta seemed like the way to go.

I tend to use my pasta machine these days when making fresh pasta but have been itching to have a go at some hand rolled stuff. Especially since I saw the gorgeous orecchiette, or ‘little ears’ in Sean Morans top little book Let It Simmer.  Josh and I had a great old time standing around rolling pasta and chatting like two Italian nonnas. Not a bad way to pass a lazy Sunday afternoon.

For dessert I had intended on making mango and coconut sorbets swirled prettily together. But Josh volunteered to step up to the plate for the dessert shift so my sorbet was passed over. But I’ve included the recipe and its picture here so it doesn’t feel too left out.

Josh treated us to an equally luscious sweet ending. A creamy passionfruit semi freddo topped with fresh sliced strawbs from the market…all good things….

sunday dinner at casa del murray
zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella, basil & anchovy
orecchiette with broccolini, pancetta & aged pecorino
micro cress salad
passionfruit semi freddo with strawberries

zucchini blossoms stuffed with mozzarella, basil & anchovy
serves 6
Adapted from Let It Simmer by Sean Moran

When it comes to frying things I always get a bit nervous. Having recently purchased a new thermometer I decided to give it another go. While the results were fairly good, I’m still thinking that playing with large quantities of hot oil is generally best left to those with a proper deep fryer…but if you’re feeling game this makes quite a spectacular first course.

1/2 bunch basil
2C garlic
2T olive oil
250g buffalo mozzarella or bocconcini
6 anchovies
18 zucchini blossoms, preferable female ones with tiny zucchini attached
2L peanut or sunflower oil
330mL beer
150g flour
150g icecubes
1t salt
lemon wedges to serve

Pound basil, garlic, a little salt and some oil in a mortar and pestle to form a paste, or puree in a food processor.

Cut bocconcini into 36 thin slices small enough to fit inside the zucchini blossom. Cut each anchovy into 3 pieces and place an anchovy piece on half of the cheese slices. Top each anchovy with a dash of basil paste and then sandwich with the remaining cheese slices.

To stuff the flowers, open the petals and remove the pistle inside. Place a cheese parcel inside and twist the top of the blossom to seal. Repeat with remaining blossoms and cheese. Refrigerate until ready to cook.

When ready to serve, heat oil in a deep fryer or a very large saucepan to 180C.  And preheat the oven to 150C. Quickly make the batter by combining the ingredients and whisking until roughly smooth but still a little chunky. The ice is there to maximise the temperature difference between the batter and the hot oil and give the lightest crispiest batter possible.

Dip a zucchini flower in the batter and remove excess better. Repeat with 5 more flowers. Fry in oil for a few minutes or until deep golden brown. Remove and place on a tray lined with paper towel and keep warm in the oven while you fry the remaining flowers in two batches.

Serve immediately with lemon wedges.< /p>

orecchiette
makes approx 550g
Adapted from Sean Moran’s Let It Simmer

After watching an episode of Jamie’s Italy where Italian ladies were whipping out orecchiette like champions, I got inspired to try Sean’s recipe. And while I probably would need to practice for a couple of years solid to be able to replicate the speed and perfection of the
Pugelese nonnas, Josh and I were pretty happy with how our first attempt turned out.

This is a great pasta to make if you don’t have a pasta machine to roll out fine sheets.  It’s best if you can let it dry for an hour or two before cooking to help the ‘little ears’ keep their shape.

Any leftover pasta would keep well in the freezer at the ready for a quick meal.

300g plain bakers flour (bread flour or tippo 00)
150g semolina
1/2t sea salt

Combine flour, semolina and salt on a clean work surface. Make a well in the centre and pour in 180mL warm water. Using a fork gradually combine water and flour. When the mixture is starting to come together. Knead with your hands for at least 5mins or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 30mins.  Rip off a chunk of dough and roll into a snake approx 1cm thick. Cut into 5mm coins. Dip your thumb in flour and then press into the middle of the coin. Work each piece to form a little ear shape. Place on a tray dusted with extra semolina and continue until all the dough has been transformed. Allow to dry for an hour before cooking or freezing.

orecchiette with broccolini, pancetta & aged pecorino
serves 4
Another adaptation from Sean’s Let It Simmer.

Sean actually calls for peas in his recipe but also mentions that it would work well with chickpeas. At casa del Murray I used twice peeled broad beans which gave an interesting textural contrast to the pasta and some lovely fresh colour.

For my second attempt I was unable to source broad beans so substituted in the broccolini to good effect.

400g orecchiette (see above)
6T olive oil
150g pancetta, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 bunch basil, leaves picked
2 bunches broccolini, stems sliced 1cm thick and tops left whole
100mL pouring cream
100g aged pecorino, grated
additional pecorino for serving

Bring a very large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Pound basil in a mortar and pestle with 4T oil until it forms a paste (or whizz in a food processor if yours isn’t broken like mine).

For the sauce: heat 2T oil in a large frying pan and then cook pancetta over a medium high heat until very golden. Add garlic and broccolini stems and cook, stirring for approx 5mins or until stems are starting to colour. Remove from the heat.

Cook pasta in boiling water for 4 minutes then add broccolini tops and cook for another minute. Drain pasta and broccolini tops and add to the frying pan. Return to the heat and add basil paste and cream. Cook for a minute or so stirring to combine. Stir through grated cheese and season to taste. Divide between warm pasta bowls and serve immediately with extra cheese passed separately.

mango & coconut sorbet swirl
serves 8

You could of course just choose one sorbet and serve it solo. Or serve these two as two separate scoops but it’s much more fun to swirl them in together.

for the mango sorbet:
2 large mangos
200mL water
3T liquid glucose or corn syrup
220g castor sugar
juice 1 lemon
for the coconut sorbet:
510mL coconut cream
270mL coconut milk
110g castor sugar

To make mango sorbet: combine water, glucose and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat and boil for a minute then remove from heat and allow to cool.

Peel and deseed mango and puree flesh until smooth. Combine mango puree, lemon juice and sugar syrup and refrigerate until chilled. Freeze in an icecream machine as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

For the coconut. Combine coconut milk and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over a medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat and boil for a minute then remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir through coconut cream and refrigerate until chilled. Freeze in an icecream machine as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

You want both sorbets to be about the same consistency so if the mango is a little more frozen, remove from the freezer for a few minutes. Place tablespoonfuls of each sorbet randomly in a large bowl and swirl to combine. Transfer to an airtight container and cover the surface of the sorbet with cling wrap (this helps minimise the formation of ice crystals). Freeze until ready to serve.

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{ 6 comments }

Tatter December 14, 2006 at 8:57 am

What a great blog…pictures are awsome! Bookmarked it!

Jeff December 14, 2006 at 2:32 pm

Can still get squash blossoms?

matt December 15, 2006 at 2:33 am

Feel free to guest chef at my place whenever you like :) and that pasta sounds right up my alley… all looks delicious Jules… nice work.

Ellie December 16, 2006 at 1:58 am

I have a dishwashing machine, a fairly well stocked kitchen (of which the utensil collection grows weekly) and a 2m kitchen bench plus an unused kitchen table which can be utilised for extra space! PLEASE feel free to come over and work your magic here – especially if these results are anything to go by!

jules December 20, 2006 at 11:50 pm

thanks tatter, glad you like it

jeff
it’s summer here in Oz so squash blossoms are in season..love the whole southern hemisphere thing

matt
may have to take you up on that offer next time I’m heading west. the pasta is really fun

ellie
lucky you… a dishwasher and bench space…would love to give your kitchen a workout

Vanessa December 31, 2006 at 12:39 am

OMG! every time I’m feeling a bit stuck in a can’t-get-inspired-food slump I come and look at your blog and feel so motivated to instantly go and make one of your recipes. Thankyou! Am itching to go and make the orecchiette right now and also the paneforte from your Christmas entry. YUM!

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