Grilled Haloumi with a Lime & Caper Dressing

With Spring in the air and the temperatures warming up, it’s time to dust off your barbecue and get into some outdoor cooking – and this simple yet impressive dish is the perfect place to start. Haloumi is a slightly salty cheese that originates from Cyprus and is excellent grilled as it maintains is shape when heated (and in fact is best eaten cooked). It has a beautiful flavour and texture, and goes particularly well with this Lime and Caper Dressing which cuts through the saltiness. Always a winner at our Gourmet Aussie Barbecue Cooking Class, this dish can be served as an entree or as a meat-free main. My recommended wine pairing is a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc.

Ingredients (serves 6-8 as an entree or 4 as a main course):
2 x 250g blocks haloumi cheese
A little olive oil for brushing
150g baby rocket leaves
Lime caper dressing
1 lime, zested 2 tablespoons juice measured
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon baby capers, drained
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Preheat a barbecue to medium-high heat direct grilling.
2. For the dressing: place all dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well.
3. Drain the haloumi and cut each piece into 8 slices width-ways. Brush each slice lightly with olive oil.
4. Carefully place the haloumi on the barbecue and cook for 2-3 minutes each side, until golden and grill marks appear.
5. Serve the haloumi on a bed of rocket leaves. Give the dressing a good shake and drizzle it over the haloumi.

Passionfruit and White Chocolate Muffins

You know the old saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”….  My passionfruit vines have delivered an abundance of fruit recently and never one to waste food I have found plenty of ways to use them. These include eating them au naturel, including them in my morning smoothie, giving plenty away, freezing the pulp for later use and using them in my cooking. I came up with this recipe, as I like to serve fresh-from-the-oven muffins to participants at my Cooking Classes when they arrive. Yes they have been well received!

The secret to making light and fluffy muffins is not to over-mix. When you add the wet ingredients to the dry, stir together using a large metal spoon with the minimum of strokes, only until just combined. It’s perfectly fine for there to be lumps and flecks of flour visible. Also, the use of yoghurt or sour cream improves the muffins’ texture. Muffins freeze well, so if they don’t all get gobbled up in one sitting, tuck some away for later.

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Prawn and Chorizo Skewers

There’s nothing like the smell of seafood cooking on a barbecue, and with the official start of Spring just days away, outdoor eating is no doubt on your agenda! These Prawn and Chorizo Skewers are guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser, as they are in our Seafood Barbecue Cooking Class.  Inspired by the Spanish flavours of Smoked Paprika, Garlic, Lemon and Olive Oil, they can be prepared ahead of time and take only a few minutes to cook.

Choose large prawns, as you need to be able to wrap them around the slices of chorizo, and ensure the chorizo is uncured or raw, as it will be cooked together with the prawns.

A dry rosé is a good wine match, but a sauvignon blanc goes well too.

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Chicken Santorini

I named this dish after the beautiful Greek Island, Santorini (yes, dreaming of travel….), as the ingredients olive oil, lemon and fresh herbs are characteristic of Greek cooking. As well as tasting divine, Chicken Santorini is simplicity itself. Serve it with steamed basmati rice or mashed potatoes and a Greek salad. Oh, and a glass of oaky chardonnay.

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Chocolate Nutella & Walnut Cake with Vanilla Mascarpone

In these challenging times, uncomplicated and delicious home cooking is more of a necessity than ever. Having a repertoire of such recipes is essential, and we have been aiming to bring you these via Noosa Foodie for the past 4 months. Whilst healthy eating is important, the occasional treat (especially homemade) is a great way to cheer yourself up.  We make this Chocolate Nutella and Walnut Cake in our Italian Long Lunch Cooking Class. It is always well received and ticks all the boxes: it’s a little bit naughty but extremely nice, quick and easy to make and guaranteed to brighten even the gloomiest of moods.

I hope you have been enjoying our recipes. If you have, feel free to share or leave a comment below.

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Port Poached Pears

As you know, my preference is to eat by the seasons and incorporate seasonal produce into my cooking daily. There are so many benefits to this! To name a few: the produce is at its optimum taste, it lasts longer, it is least expensive, and with less food miles to travel it is better for the environment.

Pears are in season right now and this elegant dessert is a winner at a dinner party. Shapely pears standing upright in a puddle of deeply coloured syrup – what’s not to love? These Port Poached Pears are best made the day before to allow the flavours to infuse, and can be served either hot or cold. Serve with mascarpone or crème fraiche alongside a glass of liqueur muscat, and you will be sure to be the host(ess) with the most(ess)!

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Cauliflower au Gratin

Cauliflower au Gratin (aka Cauliflower Cheese) is always popular on a winter table. With cauliflower in season (and now affordable), it would be a shame not to make this at least once or twice while the weather is chilly. My version uses Gruyère cheese to make it extra special, but a mature cheddar would also be a good choice. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try a smoked cheddar or even a flavoured cheese! Serve this as a side to any roast or winter dish like Braised Lamb Shanks or Osso Buco. You can vary the recipe by substituting some of all of the cauliflower with blanched broccoli or fennel (also both in season).

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Fettuccine Carbonara

Nothing says comfort food like pasta, especially if it’s fresh and home-made. Pair that with a Carbonara sauce and you have a winner! There are many versions of Carbonara sauce, and this is my take on the classic, which contrary to popular belief is traditionally made without cream. Unlike the original Roman recipe, mine uses pancetta instead of guanciale (which can sometimes be hard to find), Parmesan instead of Pecorino, and a little garlic for extra taste. Of course if you can get your hands on guanciale and Pecorino, go for it! And use dried commercial pasta if you must.

Now if you already know how to make fresh pasta and have the gear to make it, I highly recommend putting in the effort. If you’ve always fantasised about making fresh pasta but have no idea how to go about it, I recommend taking a cooking class to learn this valuable skill. Our cooking school life’s a feast, which we are excited to announce is reopening on the 18th July after our period of forced hibernation, offers two pasta making classes: Pasta Making & Italian Sauces and Advanced Pasta Making.  In our interactive, hands-on classes, I guarantee you will be making perfect pasta in no time. I look forward to seeing you in our kitchen soon!

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Dutch Pea & Ham Soup (Erwtensoep)

Many years ago before I made food my career, I worked in the corporate world and my job took me to The Netherlands for a three year assignment. Yes, I survived three long winters (not to mention three pitiful summers). In fact, two of the three winters I spent there were so cold the canals of Amsterdam froze, and it was possible to ice skate from my front door!

To stay warm in these freezing temperatures, it was necessary to nourish oneself with plenty of hearty comfort food. This traditional Dutch winter soup certainly fulfils the brief: made with split peas, ham and packed full of vegetables, this soup is more like a stew. The Dutch claim that Erwtensoep should be so thick that you can stand a spoon upright in it!

All the vegetables used in this soup are in season and readily available at this time of the year, as are ham hocks. This is really a main-meal soup, as you are well and truly satisfied after a bowl of it. However, if you prefer to serve it as an entree, just serve small portions. Erwtensoep is traditionally served with addition of smoked sausage but this is optional.

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Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

Being a staunch advocate of OzHarvest, I am always looking for ways to reduce food waste.  Nasi Goreng (which literally means “fried rice” in Indonesian), is typically a dish made from leftovers.  This is an authentic recipe which we cook in our Indonesian Banquet Cooking Class, and was passed down from my Mother-in-law who grew up in Indonesia. Whilst we use Speck (smoked pork) in the cooking class, you can use whatever leftover meat you have. It’s a great way to use leftover cooked rice (which you can freeze for later use), and feel free to add any leftover vegetables.

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