Grilled lamb with white bean skordalia

Grilled lamb neck with white bean skordalia

I've gushed about Food Safari before, but is it okay if I gush a little more? Food Safari is a show about international cuisines that somehow manages to perfectly capture what it is to eat and cook in Australia. We don't have any unifying culinary tradition, but what we do have is a diverse range of high quality produce, and people of every background who are proud of their culture. There are the douchebags among us that would demand we all assimilate into one big ball of bland, but there's something pretty cool about the old Italian woman who is able to live and work here for 45 years but still has to speak to me in very broken English with her son translating. The fact that you can get away with it and still be part of a large, supported, mainstream community and not be marginalised is an achievement, and we're better for it.

The Greek community is huge in Australia. Melbourne is in fact noteworthy for having the largest Greek population of any city outside of Athens. It's not surprising that Melbourne is where you will find George Calombaris and his three restaurants. His flagship Press Club is famous for its modern Greek food, but he's not averse to slumming it.

This dish is more homestyle: neck of lamb braised with yoghurt & onion until, sliced and chargrilled, and served on white bean skordalia with a parsley and fennel salad. If it sounds finicky don't be put off, it's actually very simple. It's a great dish (I would however make the braise both sweeter and saltier next time) and an excellent way of serving front and center an otherwise tough cut of lamb. The standout though is the white bean skordalia which is pleasantly tart and full of flavour. I used a couple of spoonfuls with dinner, and scooped the rest up with crusty bread for lunch the next day.

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* The keen-eyed will notice that my fennel & parsley salad has fennel seeds in place of fresh fennel. This last-second substitution was necessitated by a dodgy fennel bulb

Outsmarted by a frittata

Smoked cod & goat's cheese frittata

Ahh frittatas, when will I learn? If I had a dollar for every time I've been stirred up by a frittata recipe, only to make it, eat it, and find that it tastes just as eggy as every other frittata I've ever had, I could buy myself pancakes every Sunday for the rest of the year. I'm the same way with omelettes — they're easy and sound great in theory, and this manages to overcome the years of experience that have taught me I just can't handle all that egg.

This frittata was one such siren, and although I didn't appreciate it it's possible that you might. The recipe was from an old copy of Delicious Magazine. The magazine itself is back home (I'm out of town for work), so let me apologise in advance for what will be a very vague set of instructions.

Smoked cod & goat's cheese frittata

Ingredients:

  • Smoked cod
  • Goat's cheese
  • Eggs
  • Cream
  • Bread, crusts removed and torn into small pieces
  • Chives, finely chopped
  • Butter
  • Salt & cracked pepper, to taste

1. Place the whole piece of cod in a pan and add just enough water to cover. Turn on the heat and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes, then remove the cod, drain it, and flake into chunks.
2. Beat together the eggs, cream (roughly 1/3 cup of cream for every 3 eggs), chives, salt & pepper. Stir in the bread and cod pieces (couldn't help myself).
3. Heat a small, oven-safe frying pan (I used a well-seasoned cast iron pan) to medium, then add a tablespoon of butter and tilt the pan to coat the bottom and sides with butter as it melts.
4. Preheat the broiler. Add the egg mixture and cook gently until it is just set all the way up the sides and still a wobbly in the centre (about 10 minutes). Dot the top of the frittata with 1 cm pieces of goat's cheese, pushing these so they are just submerged. Put the whole thing under the broiler and cook for a further 5 minutes, until browned on top.

Spice advice: Cumin

Lamb & chana dal curry

Does anyone remember 'spice advice'? A part of me knew that promising a semi-regular feature would be doomed to failure. I put together this recipe for a spice advice feature on cumin, and while I won't go through the whole rigmarole of describing cumin in excruciating detail, the recipe was already written and the photograph already taken, so it would be foolish not to get it out there.

What I will say about cumin is that it is the best. It's never going to have the surprising, special-occasion wow factor that spices like saffron have, but it's an all-rounder, a staple of so many varied cuisines that it deserves maximum respect. As with many spices, it loves a bit of toasting.

Here I used it to make a curry of lamb & chana dal. I may not have taken the most appetizing photo, but believe me when I say that this is a hearty and comforting dish.

Lamb & chana dal curry

Ingredients:

  • 500g lamb, diced1
  • 130g (3/4 cup) chana dal
  • 2.5 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 4-5 small dried chillies
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tbsp garlic & ginger paste
  • 5 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 1/2 cup of canned tomatoes
  • 1 T ghee
  • Peanut/vegetable/canola oil
  • Salt, to taste

1. Toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and dried chillies over a gentle heat for about 5 minutes until fragrant, then remove to a spice grinder and grind to a powder.
2. Sauté the onion with the asafoetida, cloves, cinnamon stick, and a pinch of salt for 5 minutes to allow the onion to begin to go translucent. Add the garlic & ginger paste and fresh garlic and cook for another minute.
3. Pour in the spice powder and canned tomatoes and cook over a medium heat until the tomatoes start to break down. Add the diced lamb and chana dal with enough water to just cover, and bring to a boil.
4. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and simmer covered for 2 hours or until the lamb and dal are tender. If it's looking too dry, top up with a little extra water. Alternately if it's looking too wet, remove the lid and simmer uncovered to reduce. Salt to taste, and then stir in the ghee so it melts through the curry. For the best flavour, make this one day before serving.

(1) Use a braising cut such as lamb neck.