Delicious and memorable

Julie and Ilaria Biuso. Photo: supplied
Julie and Ilaria Biuso. Photo: supplied
Mother and daughter Julie and Ilaria Biuso are sharing their "best-evers" in Shared Kitchen, Real Food from Scratch.

The duo run the Shared Kitchen website, upon which the book is based.

Julie, who lives on Waiheke Island, has worked as a food editor for more than 30 years. Her daughter has worked alongside her at cooking school, masterclasses and food events since she was young.

The pair started Shared Kitchen online about five years ago as a way to share their knowledge in the hope it would encourage people to cook from scratch.

"That’s important to us. We look for ways to inspire, to make the daily grind of cooking more enjoyable and for ways to make food so scrumptious that it can’t help but bring families together."

The book’s emphasis is showing people how to achieve great-tasting food that looks as good as it does in the photographs.

THE BOOK: Shared Kitchen, Julie and Ilaria Biuso, Bateman Books, $39.99.
THE BOOK: Shared Kitchen, Julie and Ilaria Biuso, Bateman Books, $39.99.
"[It’s] the sort of food we eat most nights and which we love to share with family and friends.

"We are led by what’s in the garden or what’s in season and, with a few good additions such as extra virgin olive oil, spices and seasonings, it’s easy to create delicious and memorable food."

Their recipes are inspired by memories from their travels, Ilaria’s Italian heritage and her mother’s knowledge and training.

Ilaria says cooking and eating are in her blood and being in the kitchen is one of her favourite pastimes.

"I like my food to be colourful, flavourful and to have a big whack of ‘no fuss’."

She believes the fresher, more natural and less processed the ingredients people use are, the tastier the end result will be.

The book is separated into chapters based on occasions from easy mid-week dinners, all-day breakfasts, get-togethers, cooking outside and desserts. There’s even a handy glossary.

Julie’s previous books have won awards around the world.

Chocolate crepes with strawberries

Chocolate and strawberries make a delectable match. Crepes are easy enough to do, though expect to waste one or two until you get the temperature right under the pan. I’m sure they won’t go uneaten (cook’s perks!).

Serves 6-8

Chocolate crepe batter

115g standard flour

2 Tbsp cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1 whole egg and 1 extra egg yolk (size 6 and free-range)

325ml whole milk, maybe a little more

1 Tbsp melted butter, plus extra for the pan if necessary

Fillings

lightly whipped cream or Greek yoghurt

2-3 bananas, peeled and sliced

1-2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced

authentic maple syrup

icing (confectioner’s) sugar for dusting crepes

Method

To make chocolate crepe batter

By hand: Sift flour, cocoa powder and salt into a deep bowl and make a well in the centre. Drop in whole egg and extra egg yolk. Blend eggs together with a wooden spoon, gradually drawing in flour as you go, then start adding milk, keeping mixture the consistency of thick cream. Continue stirring until all the flour is drawn in (you will have used about half the milk by this time). Beat well, then add melted butter and remaining milk.

In a food processor: sieve flour, cocoa powder and salt together. Put egg, egg yolk, melted butter and milk into bowl of processor fitted with a whisking blade if it has one (or use the chopping blade). Blend for a few seconds, stop machine, sprinkle in dry ingredients and blend for 30 seconds.

Cover batter and rest it for 30 minutes. Before making batter into crepes, check the consistency - it should now be like a thin (pouring) cream. Thin with more milk if necessary.

Heat a small heavy crepe pan or frying pan (skillet) on a medium heat. Smear pan with a little butter if it is inclined to stick. When pan is hot, pour in a spoonful of batter. Quickly swirl it around the pan, coating the entire base, and tip any excess batter back into the bowl.

It should take about a minute to cook the first side. Loosen crepe with a palette knife, flip it and cook second side. The first crepes will probably be dungers - as it takes a wee bit to get the temperature right - and then you should be away. You probably won’t need to grease the pan once you get the heat right. Put crepes on a cooling rack as they are made.

There are many options when it comes to fillings. Spread crepes on one half with lightly whipped cream or thick yoghurt. Top with sliced bananas or sliced strawberries (or both) and drizzle with maple syrup. Fold over, then fold over again, so the crepe is in triangles.

Alternatively, put yoghurt or cream, fruit and maple syrup on one half of a crepe and roll into fat cigars. Transfer crepes to a plate and when they are all assembled, dust with icing sugar and serve with extra yoghurt, whipped cream and maple syrup.

Haloumi and watermelon salad

With this pretty and colourful salad you have a perfect summer’s lunch, offering plenty of zing and fresh notes, a nice hot nip and that satisfying crunch. Pick up a bottle of rose and you’re good to go - simply increase the quantities of the ingredients to serve more people.

Serves 3-4

½ large iceberg lettuce

4 kaffir lime leaves

3 cups watermelon cubes (1kg)

300g haloumi

1½ Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp chopped mint

½ tsp flaky sea salt

1 Tbsp lime juice

¼ cup chopped toasted salted cashews

1-2 small hot red chillies, thinly sliced

1 lime, cut into wedges

Method

Trim lettuce and break apart into leaves. Wash, dry and tear leaves into large pieces. Use scissors to snip the spines from the kaffir lime leaves. Chop leaves coarsely then process to a "fluff" in a spice grinder, or chop very finely. Put watermelon in a bowl with chopped kaffir lime leaves.

Pat haloumi dry with paper towels. Slice 5mm thick. Heat a medium frying pan (skillet) over medium heat. Let the pan get hot, then add the butter. Once it has melted and is sizzling, add haloumi (cook in batches if required). Cook quickly until golden brown on both sides, turning with a spatula. Alternatively, cook the haloumi in sizzling butter over medium heat on a barbecue hot plate (cast-iron griddle) on both sides until lightly golden.

While haloumi is frying, gently toss watermelon with mint, sea salt and lime juice. Arrange lettuce on plates and spoon watermelon into the centre. Top with haloumi. Garnish dishes with chopped cashews, sliced chillies and lime wedges. Serve immediately.

Recipe notes: If ever there was a Miss Popularity contest of the herb kingdom, mint would win by a country mile. Its nose-tingling freshness seems welcome anywhere, but it really shines cutting through strong flavours and waking up jaded palates. Perfect in salads, with fresh shelled peas, double chocolate cookies, mojitos and green chilli chutney.

Once picked, wash, shake dry and store in an opened plastic bag lined with paper towels. Use leaves whole or chop just before using to avoid blackening.

Dried mint is made from spearmint. It’s sweeter than common garden mint and is used in meatballs and kofta, among other things.

Asparagus with crispy shallots

This is the treatment for asparagus once it’s as cheap as chips - mid to late season. For a humdinger version, leave the seeds in the chilli.

Serves 4

2 bunches asparagus, about 500g

1½ Tbsp olive or peanut oil

¼ cup water

2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 hot green chilli, thinly sliced (halve lengthwise and remove seeds before slicing if you don’t like it too hot)

1 tsp peeled, finely grated ginger

1 Tbsp kecap manis

2 Tbsp crispy shallots

Method

Trim asparagus. Heat a wok (or a heavy-based frying pan/skillet) over a medium-high heat, and add the oil. Once the oil is hot add the asparagus. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until lightly browned and starting to soften a little.

Add the water - be prepared for it to steam up - and cook asparagus until water evaporates.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring often, then add the chilli and ginger and cook for a minute or so. Stir in kecap manis and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle the top with crispy shallots and serve.

Recipe notes: Kecap manis is a thick and sweet Indonesian soy sauce made from soya beans, palm sugar and spices, including star anise. Refrigerate after opening.

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