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Food is my way of saying “let’s be friends”

Join Alice in the kitchen with articles, recipes and more tasty goodness below.

NEWS BREAKFAST: Bring a Plate

ABC News Breakfast, Friday 14 Dec 2018

clockwise from left: Melon & Jamon, Nectarines & Burrata, Watermelom & Feta, Pineapple Tarts
Centrepiece: Cathedral Coconut Jelly  

Melon & Jamon

Serves 4-6 as a snack

Such a classic combination, and so many ways this can be plated up. I prefer my jamon to sit like fluffy clouds atop the melon bites, and use the melon skin as a handy handle. Tell your butcher or deli-goods dealer that you’re planning on using the slices for this dish, and they’ll know to slice extra thinly. Allowing the jamon to come to room temperature rather than straight out of the fridge means that it’ll create an extra dimension of melt-in-your-mouthness

Ingredients:

8 slices Jamon (room temp), torn in half (prosciutto will work perfectly, too!)

1 firm-fleshed melon such as cantaloupe, honeydew or piel de sapo (Santa Clause melon)

(optional) micro-herb such as chervil or sorrel

Method:

  1. Slice your chosen melon in half, lengthways.Scoop out the seeds and feed to the chooks. Slice again into quarters, horizontally. Slice these quarters into melon fingers. Depending on the size of the melon, you’ll get approximately 4 fingers per quarter.
  2. For each finger, cut into either side of the skin, as close to the flesh as possible and leave 2cm uncut in the centre.
  3. Arrange on a platter and drape thinly sliced jamon into mounds over each melon finger.
  4. If using micro-herbs, sprinkle these on at the last minute for some extra festive flair.

Tip:

  • All of the flavour work’s been done for you with the jamon/prosciutto, so this is where you want to invest your funds. Better to buy less slices of the highest quality you can find, and make them go further by tearing into smaller pieces.

Watermelon and feta

Serves 4-6 as a snack

Another go-to in our household. The sweetness of the watermelon, the saltiness of the feta and the freshness of the mint – you really can’t go wrong! You’re welcome to turn this into more of a bowl salad by cutting the watermelon into smaller chunks, and crumbling the feta. I’ve just chosen to make mine into canapés for the purposes of tv.

Ingredients:

Half a medium-sized watermelon, cut into 3cm cubes

100g feta, cut into 3cm cubes, then again into thin slices (around 5mm each).

Olive oil for drizzling

Mint leaves, finely sliced or torn depending on your preferred look

Method:

1. Arrange the cubes of watermelon on a platter, place the feta on top, drizzle with olive oil, and then top each cube with mint leaves.


Stone-fruit and Burrata

Stone-fruit is particularly good this season, so this is going to be a stayer on my summer table. Drizzling some caramelised balsamic over the sweet fruit gives this a sophisticated edge, and topping with burrata balls that can be scooped into at the table is always a winner.

Ingredients:

Nectarines or Peaches (depending on what smells better)

Burrata (you’ll want 1 ball for every 3-4 people)

Olive oil

Lemon juice

120ml balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 cinnamon quill

2 cloves

Method:

  1. Slice into your stone-fruit to the stone, then pull the slices away so that they remain intact. Drizzle with a little lemon juice to keep the flesh from browning.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the balsamic in a pot with brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves, allowing it to bubble away until the liquid has reduced by about half.
  3. Arrange your stone-fruit on a platter, drizzle with balsamic, top with burrata and drizzle with olive oil to finish.

Tip:

  • Try to avoid buying clingstone stone-fruit for this recipe, because the drama is in the play of textures. Ask your green grocer if you’re not sure.
  • Buying slightly softer fruit will mean they’re easier to de-stone.

Pineapple Tarts

Serves 16

This one’s a little bit retro, and totally moreish… It also looks like you’ve done far more work than you have (my favourite kind of cooking!). It’s inspired by chef Mike McEnerney’s gorgeous individual tarts from his book ‘Real Food’, with some Alice-y additions – like almond meal and a pinch of salt in the frangipane, and the world’s easiest pastry “fancification” device… a fork!

Ingredients:

1 large pineapple

Icing sugar for dusting

2 sheets of store-bought puff pastry

100g butter (melted)

100g caster sugar

100g almond meal

1 egg (beaten)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

1/4 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Slice the top and bottom of your whole pineapple, then work along the edges to peel, ensuring that any gnarly bits are removed. Cut your pineapple into quarters horizontally, as this will make it easier to cut into fine discs. Use a paring knife to remove the core of each quarter carefully. Then, with a hand placed on top of your flat pineapple quarter, use a large sharp knife to cut 0.5cm thick slices from the bottom to the top (the more weight on the pineapple, the finer a cut you can make).
  2. Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius (fan-forced), line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  3. Make your frangipane mix by combining butter, egg, vanilla bean paste and salt flakes. Add to the almond meal. Stir well with a flexible spatula to combine.
  4. Use a large cookie cutter or mug to cut discs out of your puff pastry that are 1cm wider than the pineapple slices.
  5. Using your flexible spatula, spread approximately a tablespoon of frangipane onto each disc of pastry, leaving about 1cm from the edge.
  6. Place the pineapple discs on top of the pastry and dust with plenty of icing sugar.
  7. Use a fork to press a pattern into the edge of your pastry discs.
  8. Bake for 10 minutes at 220 degrees, then turn the oven down to 180 degrees and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the edges and frangipane in the centre are brown. You know that the tart is ready when the frangipane in the centre is slightly burnished and the bases are crispy and golden.
  9. Dust with more icing sugar just before serving.

Tip:

  • The better your puff, the better your tarts.Look for the packet with the least amount of ingredients on the back, that uses real butter.
  • You can reuse the leftover bits of pastry by rolling them back together into a ball and using the go-between paper from the packet to help flatten the ball into a sheet again.

Cathedral Coconut Jelly:

Serves 6-8

Approx. 3 hours (including setting time)

This recipe combines the classic flavours you’d expect to see on a Christmas pav, with a little bit of extra tropical flare. The agar-agar sets at a much lower temperature than gelatin, which means it can also withstand a warm day on the table (or a car trip to the relo’s) for longer than you’d expect. It’s also entirely plant-based, making it a fun, dramatic option for catering to all of your guests’ dietaries. 

Ingredients:

1L coconut milk

3 tsp agar-agar (6g powdered agar)

3 tbsp caster sugar (or coconut syrup if you’re that way inclined)

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

¼ tsp salt flakes

1 firm mango cut into 1cm cubes

60-70g raspberries (half a standard punnet)

6 juicy passionfruits (or passionfruit pulp if you can’t find good ones)

Jelly mould/Bundt tin (6 cup)

Method:

  1. Combine agar-agar, sugar, salt, vanilla bean paste and coconut milk in a saucepan, and allow these to get acquainted for 5minutes on the benchtop before popping onto a low-medium heat and gradually bringing to the boil.
  • Meanwhile, arrange the fruit at the base of your chosen jelly mould or Bundt tin, and pop this into the fridge while you get on with the rest of your preparations.
  • Gently stir your bubbling coconut mixture with a whisk or flexible spatula (note: if you whisk too vigorously, you’ll incorporate too many air bubbles into your jelly) and let it bubble away for around 3minutes, or until all of the agar-agar has dissolved evenly. Pass the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug to pour.
  • Grab your mould out of the fridge and pour the hot coconut mixture over the fruit, using a flexible spatula to encourage any remaining mixture out of the jug.
  • Pop back into the fridge to set (takes 1-3 hours)
  • When ready to turn out, dip the base of your mould into a bowl of boiling water (careful of fingers) then use your fingertips to gently encourage the edges of the jelly away from the tin. Turn out onto a plate or cake stand.
  • Drizzle with passionfruit pulp to finish.

Slice into portions for serving, as you would a pav.

Tip:

  • I’ve used a metal Bundt tin that’s normally reserved for cakes, but you’re welcome to use a silicone jelly mould if you’re lucky enough to have one. It may be worth trawling through the local op-shop for fancy tins/moulds from the hey-day of jellies, the 70s.
  • There are other plant-based setting agents (like karagenin) that will give your jelly more of a wobble, but I’ve opted for agar-agar because it’s currently the most readily available at the shops.

Watch the segment for some live TV inspo

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