Attempts to find tasty cheaper pesto: rocket hazelnut garlic pesto

I really like pesto but let’s be honest, I can’t really stomach paying a lot for a huge bunch of basil + pine nuts on a regular basis. For something like seafood, perhaps I would be more willing to pay. But not really for a herb and a nut, no matter how nice they are.

Hence the search was on to create a tasty pesto which doesn’t break the bank. Enter rocket.

Hazelnuts were substituted for the pine nuts, though I’m sure almonds and walnuts would be nice too, depending on what you can get cheaply at the time.

Cheese was removed because.. err well I ran out that day. You can put the cheese back in if you like but it masks the flavour of the garlic and hazelnuts a bit. Also depending on where you live, it might be costly too. Shavings of parmesan would probably be appreciated though.

Maybe my point is just that you can sub out basil for any green, and pine nuts for any nut, and cheese for something a bit pungent like garlic.

Or maybe I have no point and I just like garlic. That might be it too 🙂

Pretty green

Rocket hazelnut garlic pesto

Inspired by a pasta sauce a friend had at Crown Melbourne. Credit to the Kitchn for the idea of using rocket. 

A handful of hazelnuts, toasted
4-5 cloves of garlic
A big bunch of rocket
Salt, pepper, and chilli flakes to taste.

  1. Blend the garlic and hazelnut into chunks.
  2. Fry the garlic-hazelnut mix with a little salt in some olive oil until the garlic is fragrant.
  3. Return the contents of the pan (including oil) to the blender and blend in the rocket. If the mixture is a little dry, add more olive oil.
  4. Taste, add salt, pepper and chilli flakes as needed.
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More bribes for my brother: mac and cheese

I know it sounds like whenever I cook for my brother it is a bribe, this is really not true. No it isn’t. This time it was only part-bribe to let us play videogames when we visited his apartment, and part-thank you for letting us stay in said apartment.

A thank you that I hope lasted at least 4 days, as it was in danger of being finished within one sitting. Please don’t eat 500g of pasta in one sitting, it somehow seems a little scary. Imagine a pasta-monster, and by that I mean a human-sized macaroni with arms and legs. Scary, right? Don’t do it. Even though the mac and cheese is tasty enough to.

Anyway this was a pretty easy recipe which I later passed on to my bro (I was expecting it to be much harder!)

Pasta monster's lair

Easy Mac & Cheese

Adapted from the Kitchn

  • Note the basic ratio of milk to cheese is around 1:1.5 to 1:2, with a couple of tablespoons of flour (any type – corn or normal). 

A 500g bag of pasta – small shapes are better because they hold the sauce
1.5 cups milk
2 – 3 cups cheese – cubed is fine, or grated, it just needs to melt.
2 tablesp flour – corn or all purpose
0.5 – 1 teasp black pepper, to taste
Salt to taste
A dash of chilli flakes
Mix-ins:  see below. I used leeks and lamb sausage.

  1. Cook the pasta.
  2. Warm 1 cup milk over medium heat in a pot.
    Mix flour into the remaining ½ cup of milk
    When steam starts to rise from the hot milk in the pot, pour in the rest of the flour-milk mixture.
    Whisk / stir until it thickens to the consistency of cream / custard.
  3. Drop the heat to low.
    Stir in the cheese, pepper, salt, and chilli flakes. Mix until all the cheese is melted.
    Taste and season as needed.
  4. Turn off the heat and dump all the pasta + additional mix-ins into the pot.
    Stir well until the sauce coats the pasta.
    (Eating can start here J )
  5. Optional: Put into an oven proof dish and top with more cheese – parmesan works nicely.
    Put it in a toaster oven / oven at around 200 deg C for 20 minutes or so until the cheese topping crusts and browns.

Mix-ins:

In terms of mix-ins, I added the following:

  • Leeks
    • Wash leeks. Slice and fry in a little oil until soft and a little charred at the edges.
  • Lamb sausages
    • Fry lamb sausages and slice. Set aside.

You can really add anything you like though.

A prettier pie than previously anticipated

Or is it a galette? I don’t know what the rules are for naming pies. It is in a pastry. Therefore, it is a pie. Feel free to elucidate if you know the pie-rules. Don’t report me to the pielice (get it, pie-lice/po-lice?) Let’s leave it on that terribly embarrassing note and proceed to the recipe, shall we?

This is a pretty flexible recipe. The only requirement is that the filling is dry and solid enough that it is able to stand by itself in the centre of the puff pastry and not leak out. And the smoked cheese really adds something. By adding something, I mean in the sense of fancy food bloggers “oh my goodness, it really adds a special something!!!” as opposed to the view that, of course, if you add cheese then you are adding ‘something’, i.e. cheese, to the pie.

I think this is one of the tastiest pies I’ve made so far, and it tasted awesome over the next 4 days as cold lunch. If you want to crisp up the pastry again, reheat it in the toaster oven for a couple of minutes.

Soon to be pie See ugly folding - but it didn't fall apart! Isn't it pretty

Seafood Leek Smoked Cheese Galette 

1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg
2 handfuls of grated smoked cheese – I only had enough for 1 handful, so I used a second handful of cheddar
1 handfuls mixed seafood
2 small fillets of fish
3 large leeks
1 tablesp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablesp sugar
1-2 teasp black pepper
A pinch of salt
A dash of chilli flakes

1 egg + a splash of milk for the eggwash

Oven temperature: 180 degrees C

  1. Slice the leeks and fry over medium heat with a little oil until soft. Add the sugar and balsamic vinegar, and continue to heat until the leeks caramelise slightly on the edges.
  2. Mix the egg, cheese, leek, salt, pepper, and chilli flakes – reserve a couple of tablespoons of cheese for later. Add the mixed seafood.
  3. Place the puff pastry on a sheet of baking paper, and scoop the pie filling into the centre of the sheet of pastry. Leave around 2 inch clearance on each side of the filling.
  4. Cut the fillets into strips, and place on top of the filling, skin up (if the fillets have skin).
  5. Fold up the edges of the puff pastry into a pie shape, starting with one corner and working around until all sides are folded up. Take a look at the picture above for an idea of how to fold it up.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the assembled pie. Rub a little eggwash (egg mixed with milk) on the exposed puff pastry.
  7. Bake for 40 minutes, until the pie is a nice golden colour.

Boilin’ Bomlea and the Pufftastic Tuna Puffs

Bigfoot found a fictional name generator and apparently my chef name is Boilin’ Bomlea. Go figure, I burn stuff sometimes. His was much more boring, after a few attempts he got BBQ’in Bigfoot, which isn’t anything to do with kitchen explosions at all. I like to think that I have a flamboyant style, rather than posing a threat to anyone else in a 10m radius of the stove.

He made these puffs, but doesn’t seem keen to guestpost. But, unless I write down the recipe, I’m pretty sure he will forget exactly how they’re made and then I’ll never get to try them. This would make me sad, because they look pretty tasty. And also, they appear to present the perfect laziness:impressiveness ratio that I do love so. Hence, I could not let such a snack be relegated to the depths of “some random yummy puff I ate that day”.

Wriggle wriggle wriggle wriggle wriggle wriggle yeaPuffy bellied puff

He also takes much better iPhone pictures than me. Though I suspect everyone takes better iPhone pictures than me. Cry cry. I shall never be a photographer.

Cheesy Curry Tuna Puffs

Inspired by Sweet Whisk.

2 sheets puff pastry
2 cans tuna in tomato sauce
1 red onion
2 tablesp fish curry powder
1 teasp chilli flakes – or to taste
1/2 to 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated – or more, to taste
1 egg, beaten

Oven temperature – follow the instructions on the puff pastry, ours was 180 degrees fan forced

  1. Fry onions until they brown a bit, then throw in the tuna.
  2. Mix in the chilli flakes and curry powder. Keep frying until the mixture is a bit dry.
  3. Let the mixture cool down. Meanwhile, defrost the puff pastry and cut it into squares.
  4. Put a spoonful of tuna mixture into the centre of each little square, followed by a spoonful of cheese.
  5. Roll up the puffs, and dunk them in the beaten egg.
  6. Bake according to the puff pastry instructions, ours took 18 minutes.

To try next time – add chives / spring onions, or cubed bits of potato

Japanese Food-Smuggling

I like onigiri. Very much. It’s satisfying and fun, and a bit of a novelty to me to be honest. But it’s a bit of a hassle (because I’m slow and not a professional Japanese food person).

What that means is that I need an excuse for onigiri, else I feel like I’m spending far too much time on what is essentially a snack.

Raw salmon is one of the prettiest raw fish in my opinion Salmon spa therapy Probably it's a bit black because of the sugar in the sushi vinegar Flaked and back in the pan

Watching Batman in on Imax  in a country that doesn’t seem to understand the greatness of caramel popcorn is a reasonable excuse. Seriously, Melbournians. Do you not know what a crime this is? Cinema without caramel popcorn?

If anyone finds a cinema with awesome caramel popcorn in Melbourne, give me a shout because I’d love to know about it. Until then, please don’t squeal on  me as I smuggle food into the movies. I’ll share, promise!

Furikakeeee-haiMisshapen yes. Remember what I said about not being a professional Japanese food person?Back to the onigiri – this filling keeps well and is a little more exciting than the tuna filling I used here. Apparently it also freezes well. I didn’t have any leftover to freeze because I ate the remainder on rice for lunch with asparagus. You can sprinkle it on pretty much anything 🙂

(Mini) lunch

Spicy Salmon Furikake

Adapted from Just Bento. As I might have mentioned before, I don’t generally cook with wine so I’ve subbed out the mirin.

You can find the onigiri rice and shaping method here, I didn’t fry them this time – I just wrapped them in clingwrap. Keep them at room temperature if you’re going to eat them soon, else you can stash them in the fridge. I’ve frozen onigiri as well for a week or two (but the rice gets a little hard). If you freeze/fridge them, you can either zap them in the microwave for a few seconds and then eat once they reach room temperature, or just wait for them to warm up naturally.

1 slab of salmon – mine wasn’t that big, as you cansee
Approx 1/4 cup sushi vinegar – to steam
2 tablesp sushi vinegar – to fry
2-3 teasp soya sauce – I added 2 first, and then a third because it was a little sweetish
1-2 teasp sugar – taste it and see what you like
Chilli flakes to taste
A bunch of salt

  1. Rub the salmon with salt and stick it in the fridge for at least an hour to dry out.
  2. Wipe any moisture off the fish, then put it in a non-stick frying pan (or a normal pan, skin side down if your fish has skin). Pour in about a 1/4 of a cup of sushi vinegar.  I also added a little bit of oil to prevent stickage. Cover the pan and steam the fish over medium heat, until most of the sushi vinegar has evaporated and the fish is cooked through.
  3. Take the salmon out and flake it with a fork.
  4. Wipe out the inside of the frying pan, then throw the fish flakes back in. Add 2 tablesp of sushi vinegar, the soya sauce, and sugar. Taste and rebalance if you find it a bit sweet or salty. Keep stirring, the heat should be on medium.
  5. Keep going until the furikake gets as dry as you want it to be. As you can see mine was still a little moist. When you’re done, shake in a few chilli flakes and stir (I put in quite a bit more than a few…)