When I was growing up through the 50’s & 60’s, one thing that was always ritualised was tea drinking. Despite not having the enormous varieties of teas available today, my mother was always very fussy about what brand of tea she used. The rituals involved how the tea was made, and how you went about drinking it. There was an everyday tea-set, and a tea-set that was only brought out when guests were expected. There was also very specific items cooked to go with it, and it was always served at a particular time of the morning and afternoon.
I was wandering through the new Myers at Bondi Junction recently, and in their homewares department, noticed that a whole section had been devoted to coffee – machines of all descriptions and prices, espresso, latte and cappuccino cups and mugs, and blends of coffee. It reminded me of the tea rituals of my youth, and I was pleased to think that in some way, these rituals had been passed down. Coffee is still a very expensive luxury, and indeed worthy of ritualising. I very stupidly stopped drinking it a number of years ago, thinking it bad for my health. It is something I am glad I had a rethink on, and now enjoy one or two cups a day, made using my machine, or my caffetteria. I include my chocolate truffle recipe in this issue, for those who enjoy the indulgence of chocolate (and port) with their coffee.
PROVENCALE VEGETABLE TART with MARINATED FETTA
For Tomato relish:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves crushed garlic
4-6 roma tomatoes, skinned and deseeded
pinch chilli flakes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt & pepper
Heat oil in heavy pan and sauté onion and garlic till pale gold. Add chopped tomatoes, chilli, paste, bay, thyme and salt & pepper. Cook over low heat till thick, about 20 minutes. Remove bay and thyme. Cool.
2 medium zucchini, finely sliced
2 baby aubergine, finely sliced
1 red capsicum, deseeded and cut into strips
1 Spanish onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper
Brush vegetables with oil, season, then grill or barbeque until just tender. To make sure onion retains its shape, DO NOT cut off base, or alternatively secure each wedge with a toothpick. Remove toothpick before adding to tarts.
4 x 12cm discs of puff pastry, kept chilled (buy puff pastry from supermarket)
1 egg yolk
200g soft fetta eg Persian
4 sprigs fresh continental parsley (also called flat-leaf)
Make an incision 1cm in from edge of pastry disc. Prick inner circle with fork. Brush with egg yolk. Spread 1-2 tablespoon relish over the inner circle of each disc, ensuring the border is left free. Divide the vegetables amongst the cases, again leaving edge free. Bake at 220°C for 15 minutes, or until pastry is risen and golden. Remove from oven, place 2 tablespoons fetta on top of each tart and garnish with a sprig of parsley. Transfer to serving plates, and if you have it, drizzle with some herb or garlic oil. Serve with Citrus, Avocade and Potato Salad.
Approx cost $4.20 per serve
CITRUS, AVOCADO & POTATO SALAD
450g Kipfler potatoes (or substitute for whatever is available)
sea salt & cracked black pepper
1 clove garlic, crushed
drizzle of olive oil
1 ruby or yellow grapefruit
1 ripe avocado
2 handfuls baby rocket, or salad blend, washed
Scrub and halve potatoes, sprinkle with salt and steam until tender. Remove from saucepan and toss in a bowl with garlic, pepper and oil. Set aside. Remove skin and white pith from grapefruit. Cut segments from between membranes with a sharp knife, and keep juice that you can squeeze from remains. Peel and quarter avocado, then cut into chunks. Either combine ingredients and pile onto plate, or layer potato, then rocket, and avocado and grapefruit. Mix remaining juice with an equal quantity of olive oil, season, then drizzle over salad.
Approx cost – $6.00
200ml pouring cream
350g bitter chocolate broken into small pieces
2 tablespoons brandy, other liqueur or essence (use 1-2 teaspoons if using essence)
150g dark chocolate for dipping
1 cup cocoa powder, sifted
Place cream in a heavy-based pot and bring slowly to the boil. Remove from heat, and stir in chocolate. Stir until smooth (the heat from the cream will melt the chocolate). Stir in brandy, liqueur or essence. Scrape into bowl and cool. Cover and refrigerate, until cold and set firm. Work VERY quickly to form into balls using either cool hands (keep rinsing them under cold water and drying), or a teasoon or melon baller. You should get 50-60 small balls. Don’t be anal about the shape. Refrigerate again until firm. Melt the dipping chocolate either over hot water, or at 50% in your microwave in 30-second bursts. Dip the balls quickly into melted chocolate (use a fork or long skewer to dip), then toss in cocoa to coat. Chill again, then serve with feshly brewed espresso, latte, long black or macchiato, or as part of a cheese platter with muscatels and candied orange peel.
To vary the truffles, dip some in white chocolate, chocolate sprinkles, coconut or crushed nuts. Strange as it may sound, these are also nice if rolled in finely chopped basil.
Approx cost – $9.00
Tim Alderman 2015