#038 | New Recipe #4


Last night was my very first attempt at cooking duck.  I was so nervous because I’ve always heard nightmare stories about how hard it is, how fatty the meat is and the number of ‘tricks’ to making it work.  But I am pleased to say that it was delicious.  I made it for date night, which is a week early since my partner will be in the UK for a couple of weeks from tomorrow.  It’s not often that he closes his eyes and holds his hand up to silence me so that he can focus on his sensation of taste, let alone that he holds food in his mouth long enough to enjoy the flavours.  Usually eating is the only time my partner stops talking, in order to shovel the food in his gob as quickly as possible (he comes from a family of 7!).

But last night, he did just that – savoured every morsel and went back for more, and more and more.  So I figure it must be a winner.

Duck Ragu with Pasta


400g dried pappardelle (I used rigatoni)
60g unsalted butter
60ml olive oil
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 small brown onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
sea salt
450g duck Marylands (thigh and leg attached), bones removed, flesh and skin finely chopped
500ml full-bodied red wine
60ml good-quality sherry vinegar
2 x 400g cans Italian tomatoes, chopped and juice reserved
freshly ground pepper


Heat a large, heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and add the butter and olive oil.  Add the bacon, celery, carrot, onion, garlic and some sea salt, stir and saute over low heat for 15 minutes.  Increase the heat to high, add the duck and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until meat is lightly browned.  Add the wine and vinegar, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, or until reduced by half.

Stir in the chopped tomatoes and their juice and simmer, for about 20 minutes, or until the duck is completely tender and sauce is rich.  Check the seasoning and add a grind of pepper.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for about 8 minutes, or until al dente.  Drain the pasta and add to the duck ragu.  Gently toss together.

Serve into deep pasta bowls.  Spoon the remaining sauce over and sprinkle over some shaved parmesan.

Serves 4.



#038 | New Recipe #2

*NB : The photo I took of my creation looked no where near as good as the one in the book, so excuse my plagerism in this instance – I want your mouth to water, not shrivel.

Porcini Risotto with Red Wine & Thyme Reduction 

150ml red wine
3 sprigs thyme
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, in skin, ends pierced
200g butter, plus ½ tsp for topping
400g Ferron carnaroli rice
40ml white wine
2L chicken stock
5 medium sized porcini mushrooms
Extra virgin olive oil, to sauté
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese
8 basil leaves, fried
8 sage leaves, fried

Heat red wine gently with thyme sprigs. Reduce by 2/3. Set aside.

Sweat shallots and 1 garlic clove in the butter over medium heat until soft. Add rice and sweat gently. Stir, then add white wine and reduce. Heat stock and add to just cover rice. Stir. Repeat, adding less stock each time as rice cooks.

While rice is cooking, dice 2 mushrooms. Sauté in a pan with olive oil and remaining garlic. Remove from pan and season to taste. Slice remaining mushrooms lengthwise and sauté gently in same garlic and oil. Set aside and keep warm. Stir diced mushrooms in to rice 1 minute before rice is ready. Heat red wine reduction and reduce further, until almost syrupy.

When risotto is creamy and rice holds its shape but is not crunchy, remove from heat and top with ½ tsp butter, parmesan cheese and olive oil.

To Serve:
Divide risotto between plates, press flat, and fan sliced mushrooms on top. Fry basil and sage leaves in hot oil until crisp, place on top of risotto. Drizzle with red wine reduction.
[Serves 4]

Recipe was taken from a fantastic book called The Masters of Cuisine.  This series of books takes incredible and well known chefs and reveals the recipes for their signature dishes, often those served in the restaurants or establishments in which they make their living.  This particular recipe is from Joseph Vargetto from Number 8 restaurant and wine bar. 

I cooked this last night for my Valentine and it was DELICIOUS.  Probably the best risotto I’ve ever made – but 200g of butter will do that, I guess!  We topped it off with a chocolate on chocolate on chocolate creation that I whipped up on the spot from chocolate icecream, butterscotch sauce and cooking chocolate and some chocolate sprinkles.  Mmmmmm – just what a girl wants for Valentine’s Day!


#038 | New Recipe #1

#038 on my list is to cook one new recipe per month.  I love cooking, but with my busy lifestyle, it’s easy to cook up some pasta or just throw together a pot of something I’ve made a million times before and don’t have to think about.  But that’s just not FUN, that’s a chore!

I really enjoy the whole process of pouring over recipe books, staring at the pictures and then choosing something that’s made me drool all over the page.  Then pulling it together, flying a little bit blind, adding my own twist to the recipe (on the fly, of course) and then serving it up to a table of salivating guests…. now that is FUN.

So January 2008, my recipe for the month is Basil Risotto with Roast Tomatoes. It was so good that I forgot to take a photo of it. So just use your imagination….

Basil Risotto with Roast Tomatoes

4 vines or 24 individual cherry tomatos
olive oil for drizzling
cracked black pepper

20g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil, extra
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
5.5 cups chicken stock (or vege stock)
2 cups arborio/risotto rice
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (350F). Place tomatoes in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper. Bake for 1 hour or until soft.
To make the risotto, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the butter, extra oil, onion and garlic for 6-8 minutes.
Place the stock in a saucepan. Cover and bring to a slow simmer. Add the rice to the onion, stirring for 2 minutes or until translucent. Add the hot stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring continuously until each cup of stock is absorbed and the rice is al dente (around 25-30 minutes). Stir through the parmesan and serve in bowls topped with rough pesto (see below) and the tomatos and drizzle with oil (or the juices from the baking dish). Serves 4.

Rough Pesto
Roughly chop 1 cup basil leaves and mix with 1 clove crushed garlic, 1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup toasted and roughly chopped pine nuts and 1/3 cup olive oil.

#056 | Make a Cheesecake from Scratch

I have made a cheesecake from a packet before, but never from scratch. Considering a cheesecake is one of my all time favourite types of dessert, the fact that it’s taken me 30 years to try making one from scratch should indicate how often I actually attempt to make a dessert like this.

Over the weekend, I was working on a pitch (as part of my supposedly 9-5, Monday to Friday job) for a client. The client is a chocolate manufacturer. After 4 hours, I was scouring the fridge for any sign of chocolatey goodness…. I found Tim Tams and demolished the entire packet.

24 hours later, when I was finishing up the pitch, which now extended to fifty pages of talking about women and chocolate, I became quite overwhelmed with cravings. I hit Ctrl + S and practically ran out the door to the supermarket…..


I had so much fun making this cake, and the mess in my kitchen was a testament to this. We ate it last night, after I made my recipe for the month that I’d never made before (more on that later)… and it was SENSATIONAL.

Ingredients for the Base:
1 x packet of Arnotts Chocolate Ripple Biscuits
1 x tablespoon of hazlenuts (crushed)
125g of butter
2 x tablespoons of melted chocolate

Ingredients for the Filling:
1 x tablespoon gelatine
1 x teaspoon vanilla essence
250g cream cheese
400g can of condensed milk
1 cup of cream
250g good quality dark chocolate
half a cup of strongly brewed coffee

Finely crush the biscuits and place these in a bowl with the crushed hazlenuts. Melt the butter and add this and the melted chocolate to the bowl. Mix thoroughly and then press into the base and sides of a springform cake tin to make the base. Chill to set.

Whip to cream cheese in a large bowl until soft (and creamy!) and then add the condensed milk and continue to whip. Dissolve the gelatine in the half cup of strongly brewed coffee and let it cool. Melt the dark chocolate and then add this, the vanilla essence and the coffee mixture to the bowl and mix together until smooth. In a separate bowl, whip the cream until it’s fluffy and then fold this into the filling mixture until it’s a smooth consistency.

Pour the mixture into the set base and then place in the fridge overnight to set. Top with whipped cream and berries before serving.