Uforic Food Cafe Torquay

Cooking Tips and Techniques

How to cook the perfect steak

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The perfect steak. Is there such a thing? Well-done, blue, still mooing, burnt to a crisp – it really all comes down to personal preference. Which makes cooking steak extremely challenging.

My number one tip for cooking steak is – whatever you do – don’t serve it to large crowds, or at a dinner party.

Why? Please read the opening paragraph to this blog post again. Unless all your guests like their steak the same way – it’s going to be damn near impossible to get it perfect for everyone. Who wants to end up with someone at their table who can’t eat their meal because they are repulsed by the tiniest little smidge of red coming from their meat. Not me!

When I was younger, I would only eat steak well-done. No colour, not even a little bit – it had to be grey! Did I like steak? Well, no. I would never order it, and when I used to cook it at home, well, chewy meat certainly wasn’t my favourite thing.

One birthday my dad took me to this awesome gastro pub for dinner. I ordered steak, well-done – of course. Ever so politely the waitress informed me that a well-done steak was going to take quite some time to achieve. It was then that my dad suggested I try my steak ‘medium’. I was horrified! He assured me the flavours would be awesome – and that the meat would be cooked, a little pink, but juicy and wonderful. I was still a little unsure, until he promised to swap his chicken dish for mine if I really hated the steak that much.

I took the risk – and thank goodness I did! Medium steak is amazing! I have never looked back since. (Thanks dad!)

As for how to go about achieving a wonderful steak – well I am going to leave that lesson to one of my culinary heroes – Neil Perry. I have probably mentioned this a million times – but I have been to Rockpool Bar and Grill Melbourne three times now, and wow, the steaks and the food in general is just incredible! If you love steak – or just food – you have to go to this place!

So, here’s Neil with his top tips for cooking steak:

Neil doesn’t say much about cooking times, but this is my general rule of thumb for a darkish meat – about 3cm thick. If the meat is lighter – cook it for less time.

  • Rare steaks, two to three minutes each side.
  • Medium rare, four to four-and-a- half minutes each side.
  • Medium to well done, five to six minutes on each side.

The perfect medium steak … makes my mouth water!

Make sure you rest your steak, wrapped in foil, for as long as you cook it. This allows the juices to settle and keep your meat moist and delicious.

Practice makes perfect on this one, so if you don’t get it right, do keep trying. Steak houses can be expensive and I promise (with some practice) you can make amazing steak at home.

I quite often do steak on nights when Matt wants pizza. I serve it with some grilled mushrooms on top and a huge plate of brussel sprouts. Now now, don’t screw your nose up, read my post on how to make sprouts your whole family will love here. My mum did it with my brother and I (so I’m sure you can do it too as long as you have her secret weapon recipe!) Go on 🙂

How do you like to eat your steak? Does a smidge of red creep you out?

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Hi, my name’s Ruza and I’m a stressed cook

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I’m a stressed cook and I’m not afraid to admit it.

Kitchen Anxiety Disorder (KAD) has been a recurring issue for me lately. The thought of slaving away in the kitchen after a hard day’s work when I could be going to the gym or watching TV like my beloved husband does, with legs stretched out on the coffee table and ice cream in hand, gives me anxiety attacks and makes me angry. I wonder why I bother to cook healthy meals when our favourite pizza joint is just around the corner?

I love food so much that I drool over food porn every day but procrastinate when thinking about the kitchen.

I’m sure many of you have felt the same way – the busy life of working, running a family or just eating healthy can be too much, leaving very little time to make meals.

Growing up, I enjoyed eating home cooked meals thanks to my own mother, who on most days for the past 30 years of her married life, has delivered home-prepared meals made from scratch.

Born and raised in the Balkans, for her there is no such thing as a meal on its own – say soup or steak, or God forbid, takeaway food.

Oh no. After clocking up a full day of work, she is happy to hit the kitchen whether cooking for one or ten, starting off with an entrée (like goulash) followed by a delicate burek (thin pastry filled with meat or fetta cheese and spinach).

Out of breath yet? She then finishes her food orchestra with a cake and Turkish coffee. You guessed it, homemade.

So, why do I burn myself on saucepans and feel guilty when tucking away leftovers in the freezer? Because I’ll never be the ideal working wife that my mother is. I will never enjoy the thought of serving three dishes each night. And yet, I can’t stop being my own worst critic.

Do you feel the same? Tell me how you cope!

For all those caffeine lovers out there, here’s a different take on your daily hit: Turkish coffee, which is very popular in the Balkans and amongst my family.

Turska kava (Turkish Coffee)

  • 1 litre water
  • 1/3 cup finely-ground Turkish coffee
  • Sugar, to taste

Method

Pour water in a dzezva (a long-handled copper pot – you can buy one from Middle Eastern shops) and stir in a teaspoon of sugar over medium heat.

Once it starts boiling, add the coffee (you can add more if you like yours strong). It’s best to use freshly ground coffee that is usually finer than espresso coffee – you can find it in specialty shops or at supermarkets.

Stir it in and keep the pot on reduced heat and make sure the coffee doesn’t boil over.

The trick is to keep it long enough on the heat and take it off once it looks like it’s about to boil over.

Scrape the foam off with a teaspoon and pour into three to four small cups.

Follow with coffee and sweeten if desired.

Download a printer-friendly version of this recipe here

The ground will usually settle at the bottom of the cup after a minute or two and once you’ve had the coffee you can turn the cup upside down, leaving it for a couple of minutes to settle. You can then attempt to read your cup if you believe in superstition!

I do it for fun but I’m far from a reader!

My mum has a mill in which she manually grinds the coffee beans – it’s such great fun and gives the arm a bit of a work out!

The best thing about the mill is that it looks great in the kitchen as decoration!

P.S. I’m doing the World Vision 40 Hour Famine this Friday to Sunday. I’m going without food for 40 hours to raise money to help kids around the world who are  suffering from chronic hunger. This is a cause close to my heart as I was caught in the 1990s Balkan war in Sarajevo at the age of eight.

My goal is to raise $1000, so I would appreciate all your support as a family of five can be fed for a month on $40.

Could you please support me, and them, by making a donation?

You can do so via this link: http://www.worldvision.com.au/40HF/ProfilePage.aspx?preferredurl=Ruza40

Thanks, and I’ll let you know next week how much I’ve raised and how it went!

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Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese (potato gnocchi) Nanna’s way

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The golden rule when cooking gnocchi is to always use old potatoes. I’m talking about the ones you have forgotten about for a week or two that are starting-to-shoot-and-grow-more-eyes, kind of old.

My mum tells me about when she first cooked gnocchi for dad, after they were married, and how instead of serving him up the beautiful plate of pillowy, doughy morsels she had envisioned, she had to throw out a saucepan full of watery, potatoey and floury mush. She obviously didn’t listen to Nanna.

Well I sure did. Last Saturday I spent the day cooking deliciously sweet potato gnocchi with my amazing grandmother and I’m about to share her words of wisdom (and her recipe) with you now.

My nanna and I. Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Before I do though, let me tell you a little more about my Nanna Maria.

Firstly; she is amazing. If you continue to read my posts, you will only begin to appreciate how true this is. I know everyone has a special place in their heart for their Nanna but mine truly is a star. Let me explain.

When Nanna, her mother Giussepina and her older sister Palma made the trip to join my great-grandfather Antonio in Australia back in 1938, the globe was about to be caught in the grips of World War II. My great-grandfather had begun to make a life for them, working as a potato and onion picker.

My great grand mother Giussepina’s passport. She is with Nanna Maria.

Unable to speak a word of English, Nanna tells me that it was her mother’s food that endeared their family to the fearful and predominantly Australian community of Warrion – in South West Victoria. Giussepina would bake loaves of bread in the old stove, sending wafts of wheaty smells into the town air and like the music in the Pied Piper, these smells would draw all the children to the Luppino home. Being Italian, Giussepina was only too keen to share her food with the children and I guess this is how they overcame the cultural divide: with food. It’s a philosophy I continue to employ today when I share food to bring people together.

Nanna when she was just four years old – with her eldest sister Palma.

So in the spirit of my great-grandmother’s generosity, I will now share with you, Nanna’s Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese recipe. I vividly remember Nanna making these most weekends and watching in awe (and some frustration) as she would artfully flick the gnocchi up the back of a fork to imprint them.

Using a fork to add ridges to the gnocchi – which helps them to hold on to the sauce. Picture: Matthew Furneaux

I never could get the hang of that until last week! You can use a gnocchi board to put ridges in too (this looks more professional) but Nanna insists on using the fork (the ‘old school’ way) and I must admit, it does seem more authentic.

Using a gnocchi board. Picture: Matthew Furneaux

Nanna also prefers steaming the potatoes rather than boiling because they don’t take in too much moisture. You can boil or bake them though if you prefer. I’ve also provided you with a version of Nanna’s secret bolognaise sauce and meatballs that she serves with the gnocchi. With a little parmesan on top, it’s absolutely too die for. So read on and enjoy!

Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Gnocchi (serves four)

  • 500g of old potatoes, peeled, chopped and steamed
  • 50 g butter
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 250g plain flour

Method:

While the potatoes are still warm, add the butter and mash well. Pour in the egg and mix through.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Sift the two flours together and mix through about three quarters of the combined flour. Mix through with your hands to form the dough. It should hold together and be soft and smooth so add more of the flour if it’s still too sticky.
Heavily flour your board or bench top and work the dough into a ball. Be careful not to overwork it though. Pull off a section at a time and roll it into a ‘snake’. Each snake should be about 1cm thick. Keep the length of your snake manageable (just cut off whatever you don’t need and redeposit into the ball).

Once you have your four or five manageable ‘snakes’, start cutting the individual gnocchis with a butter knife. They should be about 1.5 cm long. Place them on prepared trays laid with baking paper.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

After cutting all the gnocchi, use a fork or gnocchi board to put indents into the dumplings. If using a fork, the easiest way is to push the fork into your bench/board with the back facing upwards. Then, place the gnocchi on the bottom of the fork and using your index finger, roll it upwards. (See the photo below)

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

This sounds tricky but really isn’t, just give it a go and see what works for you.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Fill a large saucepan three quarters full with water and bring it to the boil. Add a good pinch of salt.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Pour the gnocchi all in at once. At this stage, Nanna says that you should not stir but use Nonno’s trick of sticking the end of a wooden spoon into the middle and just tapping the bottom firmly to help separate the dumplings.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Within minutes, the gnocchi will rise to the surface. Once they are all up, boil for only another two minutes or so, and then strain well.
Serve with Nanna’s bolognaise sauce and meatballs, or your favourite sauce, and enjoy!

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

Now that you have the gnocchi, here are two sauce ideas you can serve it with – both can be made ahead of time, and freeze really well too.

 Nanna’s Sauce

  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Olive oil
  • 300g mince beef
  • 4 tbs red wine
  • 1 litre of tomato sugo (tinned tomatoes or supermarket ‘passata’ will do)
  • 3 tbs tomato paste
  • 1 handful of fresh basil
  • 1 handful of fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled and then shelled
  • Salt and pepper

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the meat.

Mix and separate the meat until brown. Remove from pan.

Add some more oil, heat and add onions. Stir constantly for two minutes.

Once the onions are opaque, add garlic and continue to stir constantly for about two minutes or the garlic starts releasing its aroma.

Return the mince to pan, heat through and deglaze the pan with the red wine.

Add the rest of the ingredients, except the boiled eggs, and stir well. Simmer for up to two hours, stirring occasional. The longer you simmer, the richer the flavour but if you’re time pressed, half-an-hour of simmering is fine.

Add the eggs at the end, just to heat through.

 Nanna’s Meatballs

  • 500g mince beef
  • 2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup of parmesan, finely grated
  • ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Using your hands mix everything together in a bowl until well combined. Roll into balls.

Lightly fry in a pan of heated olive oil. At this stage, you only want to brown them, don’t cook through.

Drop into the sauce (above) once it begins to boil and cook through.

Photo: Matthew Furneaux

There it is; a little piece of my culinary history. You’ll find this is a meal that will both satisfy the hungriest tummy and impress the fussiest guest. It truly is an easy recipe to master and one that you can add your own flair to, depending on what sauce you decide to use and what ingredients you put in the gnocchi. This is a basic gnocchi recipe that you could add any flavours to – even sweet ones! Some ideas include chocolate, pumpkin (instead of potato), herbs and more. Have fun with it and let me know how you go!

So what’s your favourite family recipe? How have you used it to bring people together?

Next Monday I will share another family recipe that I love. Mum’s Italian Vegetable and Lentil Soup.

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Salads – who would have thought they could be so inspiring?

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The other day I came across a video by my number one food hero – Jamie Oliver. I know – he’s the kind of guy people either love or loath. Well, despite my impending marriage – I love Jamie Oliver! There, I said it!

But in all seriousness – this guy doesn’t just stand in front of a camera and cook stuff in hopes you will go away and make his recipe or buy his cookbooks. That’s just part of a much bigger aim. Everything Jamie does – from 30 Minute Meals to back to when he started out as the Naked Chef – is about education. He’s about teaching us everything from which flavours are friends with each other, to what is healthy for us to cooking techniques. He doesn’t assume everyone is a pro in the kitchen and he certainly doesn’t make you feel like crap if you aren’t.

Check out this video where he talks about the simple act of making a salad. Just in a few minutes you’ll feel so inspired – you’ll want to pop down to your fruit and veg shop, get some radicchio, a speed peeler and a jam jar and get shaking! Check it out:

See, I told you! Don’t you feel like you want to go out and try something a bit different? Maybe I’m hopeless – but I really do feel like I know a hell of a lot more about being creative with salad than before I watched this video. You and me, we’re trying to be healthy, right? Well I don’t know about you, but boring salad sure as hell doesn’t turn me on – but these ideas are exciting!

It’s about time someone became a hero for healthy eating – and I mean a true hero. Not someone who does it as a token gesture, or throws a bit of money at the situation. The unhealthy eating of our children today is a world-wide issue and while Jamie Oliver is only one man – he’s out there trying to be everywhere at once – doing what he can to make a difference.

Speaking of being everywhere all at once – he even popped into my modest hometown of Geelong, Victoria. He was actually at the head office of Target Australia – which I can see from my lounge room window – to announce that he is going to include Geelong in his Ministry of Food. That’s huge! I’m so excited I jumped on the website and put my name down to volunteer. I hope and pray that I get a call – because I want to make a difference too!

Jamie – if you’re reading this … PICK ME!! PRETTY PLEASE!! I want to help educate people about cooking and food – the nuts and bolts stuff that people should know – but for some reason the simple act of eating well seems to have been lost somewhere along the line.

Speaking of making a difference … you know how there are a lot of food blogs out there, right? Well, if you didn’t know, I can tell you that there are zillions of them! People like me and like you expressing our love for food and cooking in various different ways. Some have a point of difference, some don’t.

Well, lately I’ve been working on Uforic Food’s point of different. I want to be like Jamie Oliver – I want to think outside the box – to do things differently. I’m sure he didn’t aspire to just be a cute celebrity chef and I don’t really want to be just another food blogger.

One thing you see with food blogs is that they are often about one voice, one story. Well, I think it’s time to do something cool, something different. We are just a few posts away from announcing the changes which I hope will leave you all feeling more inspired, more educated, more open-minded about food, where it comes from, who cooks it and the stories behind it all. The only way to do that is to open up and welcome new ideas, new voices and great friends.

That is all … I’m off to make some salad!