Dip bonus round: Feta ghanoush & grilled pita

Feta ghanoush

Peeking in through the bottom-right corner of my hummus post was another dip, one I like to call feta ghanoush. The inspiration was born out of a surplus of spoilable pantry items before a short trip out of town, but I owe the name to Ivy and her tasty-looking Fetatziki. Think of the possibilities! Olive fetapenade! Baked fetato skins! Umm... Fetarte tatin?

Other than the addition of marinated feta & honey, this doesn't deviate far from a standard baba ghanoush. Grilling the eggplant couldn't be easier if you have a gas stove — poke a few holes in the eggplant skin and set it directly over a medium-low flame for 10 minutes, turning once. It will hiss, spit, become wrinkled and smell of smoke (like your Mum!), but once cooked the skin comes off easily and you can use it in dips, or seasoned and mashed as a simple side for grilled meat.

Baba ghanoush and hummus are traditionally served with some kind of flatbread such as pita. It could be total heresy for all I know, but I like to grill one side of the pita quickly under a very hot broiler, so one side is crisp and smokey while the other is chewy and warm. If that's wrong then I don't wanna be right.

Feta ghanoush


  • 1 roasted eggplant, skin removed
  • 150g marinated feta1
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp tahini
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • Salt & black pepper, to taste

1. Combine everything in a blender and blitz until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste, then serve drizzled with olive oil.

(1) Mine was marinated in pepper, Greek oregano, parsley, and olive oil, but really it doesn't have to be with anything in particular or marinated at all.

How to make a chicken pie that doesn't suck

Chicken pie

After the rousing success that was my first attempt at pie, it's taken me a surprisingly long time to make another. One of the problems is that pies exemplify the concept of economies of scale: making pasty and filling for one small pie is time consuming, but to make a little extra for a second one is a minor hassle at worst. When you're cooking for one this little fact is of absolutely no extra help — pies can be frozen, but the result just doesn't compare to freshly-baked.

Back to the pie at hand. Chicken pie. I would never choose a chicken pie. For one, my experiences with chicken pies so far have been of insipid white sauce coating poor-quality chicken and bland vegetables. What's more — and no poor pasty chicken pie is to blame for this — I'm just not a big chicken fan. A perfectly-roasted bird or a tasty bowl of soup are an exception, but on the whole I don't see the big deal.

All of the above made me shocked to learn that this particular chicken pie was one of the best things I've ever cooked. It was rich but not cloyingly so, and packed with flavour that make it so far from the anaemic chicken pies I've become accustomed to. I strongly recommend you go for the full package and make it with pastry on all sides, but if you're in a hurry by all means make the filling and whip up a satisfying pot pie.

The recipe below makes enough filling for one person's pie, although the inclusion of a lot of half-ingredients is a clear sign that you should make and eat two.

Chicken pie

A peek under the hood

Chicken pie (filling)

This recipe makes the filling for one chicken pie. For instructions on how to put the pie together including a recipe for the shortcrust pastry pie shell, click here.


  • 1 small chicken breast, cut into 3 pieces against the grain
  • 1 rasher of bacon, sliced into 4 x 1 cm pieces
  • 1/2 a carrot, diced into 1 cm cubes
  • 3/4 cup of chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 a shallot, finely diced
  • 1/2 a clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1.5 tsp dijon mustard
  • Splash of brandy (about 2 tbsp)
  • 1/4 cup crème fraîche
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1.5 tsp flour

1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a gentle boil, then add the diced carrot. Cook until just tender (5-10 minutes), then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the chicken breast pieces and poach. Remove from the water and set aside to cool. Once cooled slightly, shred the chicken with your fingers and set aside.
2. Meanwhile in a new saucepan, cook the bacon over a medium heat until it renders its fat and crisps up on the outside. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve, leaving as much bacon fat behind as you can. Turn the heat up to high, then add the mushrooms, a hit of salt, and about 1 tbsp of butter. Set the cooked mushrooms aside with the bacon.
3. To the empty pan add the shallots, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and 1/2 tbsp of butter. Turn the heat down to low and cook gently until the onion softens. Turn the heat up to medium, add a splash of brandy and scrape down the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
4. Return to the pan the bacon, mushrooms, carrot, shredded chicken, and sprinkle with the flour. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the mustard, crème fraîche, milk and bring to a simmer. Let this thicken until the mixture is creamy but not at all soupy. Season with salt and pepper (I err on the salty side so it doesn't get lost amongst all that pastry).

The most labour-intensive scrambled egg pie ever

Stupid Thomas Keller. "Oooh look at me, I make pastry by hand, I'm a three star chef, I cook my meat in a bag". Smug bastard, thinks he's so good just beacuse he can make the quiche that ruined my Saturday.

When I started this blog I said that it would be about the journey, and anyone who's ever learned a valuable life lesson will know that the journey has both highs and lows. In the past I've been diligent documenting my successes (although recently I haven't been diligent documenting anything), but don't be misled into believing that there haven't been failures. The thing is, it's hard enough writing an entry about even the most unusual and delicious foods, which makes mustering up 300 words about a failed or forgettable meal next to impossible.

Photographing it is the other challenge. Good food's easy: try to make it look as tasty as possible. But with failures the challenge lies not in making bad food look good, but in deciding how to make it look just the right amount of bad. Do you exaggerate the bad and risk grossing out your readers, or try to dress it up at the risk of making it look a mediocre attempt at good?

But I digress. Back to the failure in question: quiche. Thomas Keller's quiche has a reputation for being the gold standard in quiche. "It's almost sexual", he writes in Bouchon, "a great quiche". If he was referring to me weeping after it's finished then he's spot on. You see as pedantic as Keller's instructions are, it's difficult to get right and when it fails, it fails epically.

The problem is not the custard. The custard is perfect and I won't hear a word against it. The problem is the crust. The pastry's high butter content makes it a pleasure to roll and a luxury to eat, but very prone to leaking. He has you roll the pastry out to just under 1/4 inch (3/16 to be precise) and I'd recommended erring on the side of too thick.

Lining the 22 cm ring mold without breaking the pastry is where I struggle — the sides are vertical and tall so there's a lot of extra pastry around the circumference that bends and folds as you nudge the base to the edges. I can't offer any advice on this step since I haven't got it right yet, but I suspect that if you develop a major break here you'll have a hard time patching it. The final tip that is actually different to the book (but that Keller has since recommended) is to add the custard to the pie shell as soon as it finishes blind baking. This will help to quickly coagulate any custard that touches the hot crust and hopefully assist in plugging microscopic leaks.

My leaks, however, were most assuredly macroscopic. What I ended up doing was scooping the almost-set custard from the spill tray underneath the quiche, then returned it to the quiche shell and mixed it up into a sort of scrambled egg pie. It sounds gross and it's lightyears away from the smooth set custard I should have had, but it's actually not too far from your typical overcooked quiche.

The flavour of the ingredients saved the day, and I've been able to enjoy this for lunch at work. If I made it again though, I'd use less onion confit as 2 cups is way more than needed in my opinion. Hah, look at me trying to fiddle with Thomas Keller's recipe. Me. The guy who made this:


No-knead pizza dough

No-knead pizza, crumb shot

Is it lazy to take shortcuts? Does it make you less legitimate as a cook, or less dedicated? Can a guy who rallied against instant pancake mix maintain any integrity as he posts his second no-knead dough recipe?

No, no, and sure he can.

The thing about a shortcut is that it's only worthwhile if it still gets you to your destination. If you cut through some side streets and wind up going the opposite direction, it's not a shortcut, it's the wrong way. The same is true for cooking — Sandra Lee's corner cutting is an embarrassing false economy, but true shortcuts make you more efficient and remove some of the frustration that can bog down even the most enthusiastic cooks.

For me, kneading is a step I will happily forgo. Medium hydration doughs are actually quite therapeutic to knead by hand, but the two doughs I make most often are either relatively stiff pasta dough, or pizza dough. I love the big, random air bubbles and thin, crunchy crust that high hydration gives a pizza dough, but if you've ever tried to hand knead something that sticky you'll forgive me for taking the easy way out. This recipe is only 65% water, next time I plan to go ever higher.

Bakers who know about the science of bread may shake their head at this recipe, but the fact remains that it produces a damn tasty pizza base. The extended rest boosts the flavour, and it develops enough gluten to give the dough some chew thanks to the large amount of water. I haven't reached (homemade) pizza heaven yet, but I can see the light and I'm floating towards it.

Recipe after the jump.

How to make pies: Beef & guinness pie

Beef & guinness pie

It's tough writing a food blog when you're in a different hemisphere to 90% of your readers. While you guys drip with sweat I'm roasting chickens, and in a couple of months when you're covered in snow I'll be posting pictures of watermelon and lime smoothies photographed in the stark 7pm sunlight. But like a brave little steam engine, I push on nobly.

With winter in full swing here, I was feeling a distinct lack of pies. You know that feeling you get when you haven't had a pie in a while? The sweating, the nausea, the irritability and vague sense of paranoia? Classic pie withdrawal. The only cure: a good pie. Pot pies are great, but to achieve a state of true nirvana a hearty stew encased on all sides in buttery pasty — that is, a proper pie — tastes as good as it sounds. Can you tell I like pies?

While the recipe is for a beef & guinness pie, this entry is about pies in general. If you do everything from scratch it might take you an afternoon, but with pastry and stew in the freezer you can easily knock out a pie on a weeknight. There are 3 basic steps that you can read about after the jump: The pastry, the filling, and then bringing it all together.

The accidental calzone

Accidental calzone

Let this be a warning to all of you food bloggers out there: while you're taking photographs, your food is getting cold, getting warm, overcooking, drying out, wilting, melting, or setting. If you spend too much time fucking around, your uncooked pizza will stick to the board, tear when you transfer it to the oven, and turn into an accidental calzone. Perhaps not you, personally.

In related news, I think I've hit upon a great pizza dough — stay tuned.

Things not to attempt hungover: Pizza with tomato & pesto

Pizza with tomato & pesto

It took a while to get lunch out today. I woke up at 10:30 with a dry mouth and the punishment for a night of excess throbbing in my head. It was another hour before I was mobile enough to fetch 2 paracetamol for breakfast, which hit the spot but were frankly a touch bitter and powdery for my palate.

There was focaccia dough in the fridge (a new recipe), but it stuck to the bowl when I tried to remove it for shaping which was dispiriting enough to quash that idea — I made pizza instead. It was quite good really, but not the best I've made. Part of the problem was lazily not allowing it to rise enough, but the dough itself unsurprisingly would be better suited to focaccia. Keeping in mind that every step placed successfully ahead of the previous one was a small victory this afternoon, I'd still call this a moderate success.



  • 140 ml water
  • 5 g active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 215 g strong flour
  • 4.5 g salt

1. Mix together the warm water, yeast, and olive oil and let stand for ten minutes. Meanwhile combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and stir together with a sturdy wooden spoon. Turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 10 minutes, or knead in an electric mixer until the dough is smooth1.
3. Rest the dough in a warm place for 1.5 hours then knead for 2 minutes, shape into a ball, lightly oil the dough and place it in the fridge, covered, for 24-36 hours.
4. Bring the dough to room temperature for 1.5 hours while preheating the oven and pizza stone as hot as you oven will go.
5. Gently pull the dough ball to about 3/4 cm thickness2. Top with whatever you like3 and bake on a pizza stone until the crust is golden brown and crispy (about 10 minutes).

(1) This dough is quite wet and a little challenging to knead by hand. If you have an electric mixer I suggest using it.
(2) Don't roll it with a rolling pin! This will get rid of all the bubbles you've spent 24 hours creating.
(3) I topped mine with a simple tomato sauce made from blending uncooked canned tomatoes with salt. On top was some terribly inauthentic supermarket cheddar (which I added 5 minutes into cooking to prevent it burning), and pesto added after the pizza was cooked.

Submitted to YeastSpotting

Paneer parathas

Paneer parathas

I remember the first time I made parathas. It was a few years ago when I was starting to become interested in cooking. An indian friend heard about this, and suggested I make aloo parathas.

"They're so easy, just make a simple dough from flour and water, wrap it around some spiced mashed potato, roll it flat with a rolling pin, and cook it on both sides like a pancake."

In her defense, that is pretty much what you do. Although her instructions assumed a fair degree of prior cooking knowledge, she was so confident that I couldn't let her down by admitting confusion. The resulting parathas were a spectacular failure, suitable for little other than homemade grout in DIY bathroom renovations.

Fast-forward four years. I can now successfully boil water, toast bread, microwave beans, and if I may say so myself, cook a pretty decent paratha. This recipe would be nothing without Manjula of Manjula's Kitchen. While my paratha dough recipe is slightly different, I learnt the technique from her videos and my parathas feature Manjula's (extremely easy) paneer as a starring ingredient. I've used paneer (an indian cheese) here, but you can fill parathas with anything including potato, spinach, lentils, or minced meat.

Paneer Parathas

Ingredients (makes 4 parathas):

  • 70 g (1/2 cup) wholemeal flour
  • 70 g (1/2 cup) plain flour + 35 g (1/4 cup) for dusting
  • 2 g (1/2 tsp) of salt
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 15 g (1 tbsp) of ghee
  • 120 g paneer, crumbled
  • 1 tsp of grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp of toasted cumin seeds, ground
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp of natural yoghurt
  • 1 handful of coriander (aka cilantro) leaves
  • Salt to taste

1. Combine the flours, water, and salt in a bowl. Once mixed, turn out onto a bench dusted with flour and knead for 5-10 minutes. Then, work the ghee into the dough. Set aside and rest for 10 minutes to 1 hour.
2. While the dough is resting, make the filling: mix together the paneer, ginger, turmeric, cumin, yoghurt, coriander, and salt.
3. Divide the rested dough into 4 pieces. Dust your bench with flour, and roll each piece of dough out to a ~10 cm circle. Put 1/4 cup of the paneer mixture in the middle, and bring the edges of the dough up around the filling, like sealing a dumpling. The technique is best illustrated in this video. Rest each dumpling for 10 minutes.
4. Once rested, dust with flour and roll out to ~0.5 cm thickness (again, see the video). In a heavy pan preheated to medium-hot, cook the parathas until browned on both sides (no oil required). Brush with ghee and serve.

Workday lunches: Foccacia


It's hard to find a good workday lunch that doesn't cost me $7 and taste like crap (yes that was directed at you, every hospital cafeteria ever). I've taken to experimenting with my own, with a few requirements:

  1. It should be quick to prepare the night before, or able to be made in bulk
  2. It should be relatively inexpensive — I would love to eat a chicken, avocado, and sundried tomato sandwich every day, but for now I have to be sensible
  3. The ingredients or bulk item should keep well for 5 days
  4. It should travel well — no fondue
  5. It has to taste good — I might be cheap and lazy when it comes to lunches, but I'm not about to eat canned ravioli

This focaccia recipe is based on Jamie Oliver's recipe from Jamie's Kitchen. I've added olive oil to the dough to improve its shelf life, and decreased the sugar and salt in his recipe — not for health reasons, just because the recipe needs it. These will take any topping you like, just be mindful that if you put things like cheese on too early they'll burn before the bread is cooked. My topping was simply canned tomatoes pureed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme, then toped with grated mozarella and basil leaves.

The basic focaccia recipe is after the jump. To help you I've made a video of me making the dough:

Chickpea & olive bruschetta

Olive & chickpea bruschetta

It's hard to beat dried chickpeas on economy or taste (there's a nice series of posts about chickpeas at A Life (Time) of Cooking), but the canned variety are great for quick, tasty, nutritious meals that don't need to be planned 24 hours ahead. Like most bruschetta, this is recipe is really simple. You'll need olive tapenade, which can be bought freshly made at continental delis or made easily at home (recipe here soon [Addendum: Recipe here now]).

Chickpea & olive bruschetta


  • 2 thick slices of fresh Italian bread
  • 1 clove of garlic, halved
  • 2/3 cup cooked, drained chickpeas (canned okay)
  • 1/4 cup olive tapenade
  • Extra virgin olive oil (about 2 tbsp)

1. Heat the oven grill (aka broiler). Brush your bread on both sides with olive oil and grill close to the heat until toasted on the outside but still soft in the middle. Turn over and toast the other side. When toasted, rub one side with a cut garlic half then discard the garlic.
2. Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a hot pan, then add the chickpeas and sauté until the begin to brown.
3. Remove from the heat, and toss with the olive tapenade. Pile the dressed chickpeas onto the toast and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Serve warm.