Zucchini gratin

A beautiful bake of zucchini, rice and cheese

Sometimes you make something that forces you to slow down. For me that normally involves baking and I love it. You can’t rush yeast, a cake needs time, dough wants methodical kneading, pastry asks for, well, everything.

So I saw this recipe on Smitten Kitchen and while I am not the greatest fan of zucchini I needed to make it instantly. What I didn’t realise was it was going to force me to go slow and follow a number of steps. I am, in reality, a much more ‘bung it all in and hope for the best’ cook.

Salting the zucchini
Salting the zucchini

It’s based on a Julia Child recipe and while I own her voluminous Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volumes 1 and 2 I have never cooked from them. So I was, in effect, uninitiated.

You have no choice but to slow down but I was making it for dinner so didn’t want to slow down and got a bit cranky with the whole thing. Salting zucchinis, par-boiling rice, slowly sweating off onions, it doesn’t sound like much but for a weeknight #everyfuckingnight it was frustrating.

Stupidly labour and saucepan intensive zucchini gratin ready for the oven
Stupidly labour and saucepan intensive zucchini gratin ready for the oven

But dagnammit it tasted out of this world which annoyed me even more (and everyone except Felix inhaled it). So my advice is definitely make it but go into it with patience, a willingness to wash up a lot and the knowledge you will be handsomely rewarded.

Voila! Zucchini gratin for #everyfuckingnight (and probably never again).
Voila! Zucchini gratin for #everyfuckingnight (and probably never again).

Zucchini gratin
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1.1kg zucchini
  • 1½ tsp of salt
  • ½ cup white rice
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tblsp olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tblsp plain flour
  • Milk, as needed, although broth of your choice would work just fine
  • ⅔ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • Salt and pepper
  • Butter
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 200C and put your oven rack in the top third of your oven
Prepare the zucchini
  1. Halve lengthwise, and if seeds are particularly large, core them out. Grate using a food processor unless you're a masochist and want to do it by hand
  2. Place in a colander set over a bowl. Toss with kosher salt then let drain (according to Julia Child for 5 minutes). I weighted it and drained it for 30 minutes. Don't throw the liquid away
  3. Squeeze a little bit out and taste it. If it's really overly salty (mine was) rinse it under the tap and squeeze out (this water you don't save).
  4. Squeeze all of the zucchini in handfuls collecting the juices into the bowl of drained liquid. You really want to squeeze it out so you don't have soggy gratin.
Prepare rice
  1. Bring to the boil for just 5 minutes then drain and set aside.
Prepare the rest
  1. In a large frying pan, cook the onions slowly in 3 tablespoons oil for 8 to 10 minutes until tender and translucent.
  2. Raise heat slightly and stir several minutes until very lightly browned.
  3. Stir in the grated and dried zucchini and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes
  4. Sprinkle in the flour, stir over moderate heat for 2 minutes, and remove from heat.
Assemble dish
  1. Measure the drained liquid from the zucchini. You want 2½ cups. I got that exactly (skill!) but if you don't add some milk to make up the difference.
  2. Stir into zucchini-onion mixture, return pan to stove over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the rice and all but 2 tablespoons cheese (I added all the cheese then sprinkled extra over the top because, cheese.
  4. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  5. Pour into a baking dish, sprinkle over more cheese and dot with butter
  6. Bake for 30 minutes (if it's browning too quickly cover with foil then uncover again for the last 5 minutes.

 

Onward.

Chicken and bacon pasta bake

When you’re groaning at having to make dinner again make this.

If you’re not already, follow me at Instagram, search the hashtag #everyfuckingnight and you will see a feed of the dinners I am cooking my boys.

Chicken bacon pasta bake 1

This dinner is solely thanks to my dear friend S who knows the best places to have dinner, always checks in on me and is breeding olympians. She’s made this as the kids meal on two occasions we’ve been over for dinner – the second time because they all loved it the first.

It’s a dinner standard in her house and will now be in ours.

Chicken bacon pasta bake 3

 

Chicken and bacon pasta bake
 
A fantastic dinner option even most fussy kids will eat.
Author:
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 500g packet of pasta - shells or spirals would be my advice
  • 2 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 6 slices streaky bacon - if using more traditional rashes you get in Aus then probably 3 would do it
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 500g jar of pasta sauce - your brand and flavour choice
  • couple of handfuls of grated cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta until almost done - meaning if it's meant to cook for 12 mins cook it for 10. Drain
  2. Saute the onion, garlic and bacon in a glug of oil for about 5 minutes or until there's a bit of colour coming on but not crispy
  3. Add the chicken and brown, don't go crazy because it will cook in the oven
  4. Add the pasta sauce
  5. Tip in the pasta and combine thoroughly
  6. Stir in a big handful of grated cheese
  7. Tip into a baking dish, top with more cheese
  8. Bake at 180C for 30-45 mins - this is basically dependent on how much time you have and how crispy you want the top to be.

 

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One pan roasted chicken and potatoes

Thursday’s radio spot saw me veer away from the sweets (quelle horror!) to show a steady course to one of my go-to one pan roasts. The big tip here is to have a rare moment of organisation when you buy your chicken pieces. Throw them in a snap-lock bag with the marinade before poping them in the freezer. It means on the night you’re going to have it all you need do is defrost the chicken, toss with the potatoes and roast. As my friend Beth says, BANG.

dinner winner

 

One pot wonder

  • 1kg chicken pieces (drumsticks, wings, pieces that are on the bone)
  • one lemon, cut into chunks
  • few lugs olive oil
  • a handful mix of fresh herbs (eg tarragon, sage, parsley, thyme)
  • 4 garlic cloves, slightly crushed but skins still on
  • one onion, cut into chunks
  • heaped dessert spoon of dijon mustard
  • good pinch of salt and a healthy grind of pepper
  • 6 potatoes, cut into wedges
  1. Combine the chicken with the marinade in a bowl or large snap-lock back and combine thoroughly
  2. Marinate for a long as you’ve got – ideally a couple of hours at least
  3. Preheat your oven to 180C
  4. Tip the chicken pieces and potatoes into a baking dish and toss together, add a few more lugs of olive oil if everything’s not getting nicely coated with the marinade. You could probably sprinkle over some more salt and pepper here as well.
  5. Bake for about an hour or until everything is nice and golden with some crispy bits and charred bits and basically a pan of ridiculous goodness.

Onward!

Come here my little dumpling…

Dumplings make everything better. That’s it really. I had a complete brain fart the other week but a dumplings session with Woogs, Sarah and the world righted itself toot sweet.

And don’t be nervous about working with the gow gee wrappers, they are remarkable robust and if sealing them with the little fancy folds is too intimidating then just moisten the edges fold the pastry over and voila, gorgeous half moons of goodness.

Now, what follows is two recipes for you. The first is the one I have always used in the past, the other from Adam Liaw, winner of Season 2 of MasterChef Australia. I made this on the weekend and think it worth including here. The flavour is a lot more delicate and look, it’s just so easy.

I tend to make a big batch of the filling and then freeze containers of what is left over so I can whip up another batch down the track. Sorted.

Goodness on a plate.

Pork and garlic chive dumplings

  • 250g fatty minced pork (do not come over all healthy on me, you need the fat for flavour)
  • 1 egg
  • 1tbsp very finely grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped garlic chives
  • 2tbsp Shaoxing wine
  • 40 gow gee wrappers
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well, for a good 10 minutes and season well
All about flavour

Adam Liaw’s pork dumpling filling

  • 1kg fatty pork
  • 1 cup finely chopped and blanched Chinese cabbage
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2tsp grated ginger
  • 1tbsp white vinegar
  • 2tbsp cornstarch
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp white pepper
  1. Mix all the ingredients together and knead for about 10 minutes. Refrigerate for 30 minutes
  2. Use it as is or add other flavourings now. (I’ve used some rehydrated Chinese mushrooms finely chopped and finely chopped water chestnuts)

To assemble and cook:

  1. Place a heaped teaspoon of mix in the centre of the wrapper, dab water around the edge and seal. Make sure there’s no air in the pocket with the meat. Either seal as a half moon shape or then bring the bottom of one side up, and again and again to make a little parcel.
  2. If using in a soup or to simply boil, drop into boiling water and once they rise to the surface cook for a further two minutes and then remove.
  3. For pot stickers – heat a little oil in the frypan and add the dumplings. Brown a little and then add water half way up the sides of the dumplings. Keep cooking, shaking the pan a little every now and then until the water has evaporated and the dumplings are left to fry again.
  4. Serve with the dipping sauce.
Ready for cooking

 

Pot stickers, gyoza, whatever you call them they’re tasty

Citrus Beef Stir-fry

I’m always a bit reticent to post these sorts of recipes because I fear the cultural travesties I’m committing may send some into apoplexy, but DUDES, this is so so good. I initially lifted this from a blog with the best name ever, Crepes of Wrath and have just altered it slightly.

There’s a chicken version I’ll post soon too. Both of these dishes enter the hallowed halls of the rarefied family dinner loved by all.

Citrus Beef Stir-fry
via Crepes of Wrath

  • 1 kg beef (I use sirloin steak or the pre-cut stir-fry beef from our lovely butchers if it’s on special) sliced thinly (and you all know the trick to getting really thin slices it to cut the beef when it is semi-frozen?)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plain  flour
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup oil, for cooking (now, I used this amount and next time would definitely only use half, if that)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tsp sriracha or other chili garlic paste (I used Sambal Oelek)
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar (CoW used balsamic vinegar)
  • 3/4 tsp sesame oil
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp ground ginger (I used freshly grated)
  • 1/4 cup black vinegar
  • juice of 2 oranges (I used limes)
  • zest of 1 orange (again, I used limes)
  • 1/4 cup water (I used stock) mixed with 1 tbsp cornstarch
  1. Combine the beef with the egg, salt, pepper, flour, cornstarch and 1 tablespoon of oil – best do this with your hands to ensure it all gets well coated
  2. Heat the oil in a wok then add the beef, and cook over high heat until it’s getting a nice crisp to it.
  3. In a separate frypan cook the garlic, sriracha, green onions, 1 tablespoon of black vinegar and the sesame oil for about 5 minutes 
  4. Combine the soy, sugar, ginger, 1/4 cup black vinegar, orange (or lime) juice and zest and then add them to the frypan
  5. Keep tossing your beef so it’s nice and crispy
  6. Bring the sauce to a light boil then add the 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup of water. Heat everything until is starts to thicken, about 3-4 minutes
  7. Pour over the beef and toss to coat, then cook for another 3 or 4 minutes until the sauce is as thick as you’d like it to be. 
  8. Serve over rice with greens.