Food, after all, is what has made Matt Preston one of the most recognisable faces in Australia. As an award-winning journalist, restaurant critic, renowned MasterChef judge and co-host, he has forged a career that reaches further than Australian shores.
Fast Fresh and Unbelievably Delicious, Matt says, “is full of recipes for stuff that is quite simply delicious and that I cook for my family and friends. “It’s a wee bit different from my first book in that the dishes are fresher, lighter, healther.” Being a Preston production, however, it does venture in to the slightly risqué and over-the-top – in fact it has its own sealed section “for the good of your health”.
Matt has kindly shared three recipes with readers of The Retiree, along with the anecdotes that go with them. Enjoy![hr]
Chicken Bolognese with Corkscrew Pasta
[hr]When you tie yourself to writing cookbooks that feature recipes that you cook for your family, it means that you are catering for the toughest critics of them all: your kids.[hr]
Amazingly, they loved this lighter version of Bolognese; one even called it ‘super-delicious’, which is about the highest praise you can get in my house. Well, other than ‘it’s almost as good as Nanna’s’. Yes, it’s fiddly browning off the ingredients in three batches but it is well worth it for the taste.
- 2–3 tablespoons olive oil
- 90 g (3 rashers) bacon, finely sliced into batons
- 1 onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 3 stalks celery, finely diced
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme
- 500 g chicken mince
- 100 g (1 ? 3cup) tomato paste
- 500 ml (2 cups) chicken stock
- 250 ml (1 cup) white wine
- 2 punnets cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 ? 2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- 500 g fusilli pasta
- parmesan cheese
In a large heavy-based pot over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and fry the bacon until brown. Remove from the pot and drain off any excess fat. Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, bay leaf and thyme sprigs to the same pot and cook until caramelised, about 15–20 minutes.
Remove the vegetables from the pot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and brown the chicken mince, don’t overcook. When the chicken mince is browned, put the vegetables and bacon back in the pot along with the tomato paste, stock, wine, cherry tomatoes and half the parsley. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has reduced, about 25–30 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
Meanwhile, cook the corkscrew pasta as per instructions in lots of salted boiling water. When ready to serve, stir the pasta and the remaining parsley through the sauce.
Kate’s Pear and Almond Tart
[hr]There’s always someone in your group of friends who inspires awe when it comes to baking. For us it’s my friend Kate. She’s lived in France and is a bit of a cake whisperer.[hr]
Whatever sweetness she brings to any BBQ or dinner is always the first thing to be devoured. What’s funny, though, is that when little kids pronounce her name it sounds like Cake. No wonder she has become my baking guru and helped me with lots of the sweet stuff in this book. This tart is the first thing of hers that I ever ate. It’s a showstopper – a take on a recipe from the River Café, in London, which was inspired by the myriad pear and almond tarts of Italy.
- 250 g plain flour
- 1 ? 4teaspoon salt
- 120 g unsalted butter, cold
- 75 g icing sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 tablespoon iced water
- 225 g flaked almonds
- 225 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 225 g caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 4 ripe Packham pears, or similar
Place the flour and salt in a food processor, add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add the icing sugar and pulse until combined, then add the egg yolks and pulse again. At this point the dough should combine and start to come away from the side. If the dough is too dry, add the water, bit by bit, until it comes together.
Tip the dough onto a floured surface and bring together quickly into a disc. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 1 hour to chill.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and flour a loose-bottomed, 28 cm tart tin. Roll out the dough quickly (so the dough doesn’t become overworked) until it is about 4 mm thick. Lift the pastry quickly (so that the pastry doesn’t stretch and become uneven) over the tin and press down into the sides. Trim the edge, cover with foil, and blind bake for about 20 minutes until light brown.
Remove from the oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 160°C.
Place the almonds in a food processor and chop until they are like coarse sand, not too fine. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugar until the mixture is pale and light. Add he almonds and blend. Beat in the eggs one at a time. At this point you should have a thick almond cream that can be scooped out with a spoon.
Peel, core, and halve the pears. Place one in the centre of the cooked tart case, and the rest around it facing inwards. Pour the almond cream roughly around the pears, leaving space between the rim and the pears, so the filling has room to spread. Bake the tart for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
This tart is best made in advance, and is even better on day two. Serve with some good double cream.
A Cheat’s Plum Tart
[hr]I have a little bit of a thing for stone fruit – from the soft fuzz and fragrance of apricots at the farm gate to plums piled high in supermarket aisles, their dusty bloom hiding shiny, dark skins and hearts that range from palest golden to dark, angry burgundy and every shade in between. This simple tart lets the plums really shine – even if they aren’t at their ripest. [hr]
- 1 tablespoon jasmine tea leaves
- 125 ml (1?2cup) cold water
- 1 sheet of good, frozen shortcrust pastry
- 10 firm ripe plums
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have it)
- 375 ml (11?2cups) port, shiraz, cabernet or muscat
- 500 g mascarpone
- 3 tablespoons runny honey
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract juice of 1 ? 2 lemon, strained
- 2 tablespoons caster sugar
- Whipped cream, to serve
Butter a crinkly-edge metal tart tin, ideally one with a loose bottom – 24 cm in diameter is about right. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the jasmine tea in a large glass with the cold water. This means that the tea will delicately and slowly infuse the water with the minimum of tannins. Use hot water and it will be too astringent. The wonderful partnership of jasmine tea and plums is one that MasterChef contestant Kylie alerted me to. While the pastry is still very cold, carefully roll out the sheet until it’s thinner and about 20 per cent wider so it covers the tart tin. (If you are more generous than me just use a second sheet of pastry!)
Flop the pastry into the tart tin and press into the crinkle edges of the tin. Leave any excess overhanging. Now blind bake the pie crust. Cover the inside base with baking paper and fill with rice or baking beans. Cook the pie crust for 10–15 minutes, or until the edges are turning golden. Remove the baking paper and your chosen weights. Now return the pie crust to the oven until the base goes golden too – about another 5–10 minutes. When fully cooked and golden all over, remove from the oven and leave to cool in a safe place. Trim off any excess pastry.
Reduce the oven to 160°C. Cut the plums in half from top to bottom along their crease. Remove the stones. Place the plums in a roasting pan cut-face up. Sprinkle the caster or vanilla sugar on the plums. Carefully pour the wine into the pan. Pop in the oven and cook until the plums have started to soften but aren’t soft. Check them after 20 minutes. You want the fruit to still have its shape on top of the tart. Remember the plum halves will continue to soften and cook once out of the oven. Remove the plums while they are still a little firm. Place in a cool place on a plate. Strain and save any juices in the roasting pan. While the plums and the pastry are cooking, make your mascarpone cream. Whip up the mascarpone with the honey and vanilla. Pop in the fridge to firm up.
While everything is cooling down, make your syrup. Pour the strained plum and wine syrup from the roasting pan into a small saucepan. Add the strained lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of caster sugar. Heat gently until reduced to a syrup. Cut the syrup with 2 tablespoons of the strained jasmine tea. Taste, and assuming the tannins aren’t too prominent, you can add another tablespoon of the tea if you like this mercurial combination of plums and jasmine.
Now that everything is cooled down, assemble your tart. Carefully lift your tart case out of the tart tin and place on a flat serving plate or board. Fill with the mascarpone cream and smooth evenly all the way to the edges. Now top with the halved plums. Choose the best, prettiest halves. Tumble these on top or organise in an overlapping wave. Keep in the fridge until needed. Just before serving, brush with a little of the plum juice that will have leached from the plums while resting on the plate so that your plums glisten. If there is not enough use some of the jasmine plum syrup.
TIP Decorate with white jasmine flowers if you want to be very on trend. Just make sure you use Jasminum officinale identified by its oval shiny leaves and white tubular flowers and NOT poisonous false jasmine aka woodbine or yellow jasmine!
TIP This tart works wonderfully well with pretty much any stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines or apricots.
If you are lazy, just use fresh figs and a prebaked pie case with the mascarpone cream. Instead of using jasmine tea feel free to use Earl Grey instead, which I think works better with other stone fruit.