Coming as I do from a background in hospitality, many, many years ago (I was an apprentice chef for 4 years in my dim dark youth) I am always looking for new recipes that take my fancy and also creating some of my own dishes for the times that we entertain at home.  I like to get recipes and put my own spin on them – I think this comes from my cooking background as Trevor is very much a stickler for following a recipe through from start to finish, whereas I like to sometimes experiment and be a little more creative with ingredients and will sometimes completely re do a recipe depending on what ingredients are freshest and also what I am feeling like doing.

This year we purchased a pizza oven and even thought it was a great idea at the time (we got it during winter) it was also not a good idea to do it in the colder months as it always seemed to be raining when we were planning to use it and so we have only had a couple of times when we have been creative with pizzas at home…but as we get further into the festive season and as we have a number of family staying with us for Xmas I think we will be using it a little more over the coming weeks.

One of the times that we did have the pizza oven fired up and were creating delicious home made pizzas, Trevor found an amazing recipe for baked camembert which was stunning and our guests at lunch loved it.  It was a baked camembert filled with port soaked raisins.  Here is the recipe:

Camembert with port soaked raisins

camembert

Ingredients

2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons port
250 g or 365 g  whole Camembert cheese – depending on how many guests you have coming along and vary the raisins and port accordingly
canola oil spray

Crusty bread or your favourite dry biscuits to serve.

Method

1. Put the raisins and port in a small saucepan over high heat until they just come to the boil, then allow the mixture to cool for about 30 minutes.

2. Cut a circular lid from the top of the Camembert, leaving a 2 cm border. Carefully remove the lid, and scoop out the soft cheese with a teaspoon, leaving the base intact. Put the raisins in the hole and top with the cheese, squashing it down so that as much as possible fits back into the cavity, then replace the lid.

3. Lightly spray a double layer of foil with canola spray and wrap the Camembert to form a sealed parcel. Preheat the pizza oven to low direct heat and cook the parcel for 8-10 minutes, or until it is heated through and soft. Make sure the heat stays low, or the rind will go brown and burn.  We did this at the end of making a whole heap of pizzas and turned the pizza oven off and there was still more than enough heat in it to bake this properly without any browning occurring.  I served this with some really fresh crusty warm bread but you can also serve it with table water crackers or any other sort of biscuits that you and your guests would enjoy.

Another new recipe for this year that I created last Xmas and it has followed me through the year at a number of Sunday lunches that we have done is a Rocket, cranberry, almond and baby bocconcini salad. This salad is my own creation but since I did it I have also found it online so perhaps there really is nothing new after all…anyway here is the recipe that I use.

Rocket, cranberry, almond and baby bocconcini salad

Cranberry-Almond-Salad

The above version of the recipe uses mixed salad leaves but I prefer rocket but of course it is up to you!

Ingredients (serves 6 – 8)

200g of baby rocket leaves
1 1/2 cups of sweetened dried cranberries
250g of slivered almonds
10 baby bocconcini

Dressing

6 tbls of red wine vinegar
6 tbls of extra virgin olive oil
2 tbls of honey
3 tbls of Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all of the dry ingredients in a bowl  Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk until well combined and drizzle over the salad just before serving.

Being the festive season here in Australia of course we focus on lots of salads and I have a favourite that my children and grandchildren love and it ensures that every time we do a lunch, bbq or even plan the menu for Xmas day I have to make sure I include this recipe.  I first came upon it when I attended a book launch for one of Bill Granger’s recipe books, where he created a special menu and this salad was one of the dishes he created.

It is a pea, feta and mint salad and is a light fresh addition to any meal that you are going to do that will include salads.  I promise you that everyone will love it.

Bill Grangers Pea, Feta and Mint Salad

pea feta

ingredients

7 ounces fresh shelled peas – you can also use frozen peas if you cannot get fresh ones, I find they work just as well as long as you blanch them well when cooked to retain the lovely green colour
Water, as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 teaspoons  Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon  red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/4 ounces shelled pistachio  nuts, coarsely chopped
1 large handful fresh  mint leaves
1 3/4 ounces snow pea leaves or baby English  spinach
2 3/4 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled

Directions

 In a medium saucepan, bring salted water to a boil.  Blanch the peas in the boiling water until they are just tender and bright green, about 2 minutes. Refresh immediately by plunging them into a bowl of cold water. Drain and reserve the peas.
In a small pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the mustard, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, vinegar and honey, and season with salt and black pepper, to taste. In a large salad bowl, mix the peas, onions, pistachios, and pour over the dressing. Add the mint and snow pea leaves, and gently toss to coat with dressing.
Top the salad with the feta cheese just before serving.
Now I could go on and one but for this post I think these 3 recipes are 3 of my favourites for the year and there will be some more to follow in the coming weeks including my pavlova recipe that I first learnt how to make when I was 12 years old and was shared with me by a dear friend of my Mothers and which still today is a huge family favourite and another of those items that I prepare for special occasions, especially for Xmas day.
So I hope you enjoy the recipes above they all are really well received every time I have done them either for a bbq lunch, a family gathering or an afternoon round the pizza oven where we wanted to do something a little different and special other than just serving cheese on a platter.