DANIELLE ALVAREZ’S PRODUCE TIPS

A fresh produce aficionado, let Danielle guide you through some tips, tricks and recipes to match the produce box of your choice. Her advice will change seasonally with the boxes, so check in regularly for inspiration.

Haverick Meats Boxes

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SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES

When cooking meat at home there are a few principles which will help you achieve a great cook whether it’s a sirloin steak, rump steak, lamb cutlet or T-bone steak.

#1 is you want to temper your meat fully before you start to cook it. This means leaving it out of refrigeration for up to 30 minutes before you start to cook.

#2 Seasoning. Meat really loves a high-quality crunchy salt, it does make a difference. For larger cuts I season it approximately 15 minutes before I want to cook it and for smaller cuts like lamb cutlets I will season just before cooking. I will almost always add a sprinkle of salt once a meat has had a rest after cooking.

#3 Is temperature. Steaks love to be cooked over high heat. This means preheating your grill really well before you get started or preheating your pan until smoking before you add in the steak. Cast iron and copper are the best conductors of heat so they make the best pans for cooking steaks at home.

#4 Is when cooking a steak, place it in the pan and then do not touch it for a couple of minutes, this is the only way to achieve a good crust and colour. If you’ve cooked many steaks, then you probably know how you like them cooked and approximately how long they take. Sadly, there is no uniform guide for this and the best way to know is just trial and error. A temperature probe is a useful tool if you are still unsure and don’t want to risk under or over cooking your steak.

#5 Lastly, let it rest after it has cooked. For larger steaks at least 10-20 minutes. Once rested, add a touch more salt to the cooked meat as much of it may have been lost on the grill or in the pan.


CHEF'S TIPS

Here are a few little tips that will help you to achieve a seriously delicious meal.

Lamb Cutlets

Try marinating your lamb cutlets in a little chopped thyme, rosemary, garlic and olive oil before grilling. Or crumb them for delicious fried lamb cutlets.

Beef Mince

This is screaming for some home-made burgers but alternatively would be excellent in meatballs for some spaghetti or as part of a Bolognese sauce or in a bean and beef mince pot of chili and cornbread.

Lamb Shoulder

For the lamb shoulder “oyster cut” my preferred method is a low and slow braise to make that meat meltingly soft, tender and falling off the bone. Cook it gently together with some mirepoix, chicken or other meat stock and some herbs for a classic and clean roast but the possibilities are actually endless, add some preserved lemon, tomato and oregano for a Mediterranean flavour or a cumin scented harissa spice rub for a deep and rich flavour combination. The key is to season it for at least 8 hours (overnight) and then cook gently, covered, in a 165-degree oven for approximately 2-3 hours until you can see the meat pulling away from the bone. Then, uncover and turn the heat up to get some browning on the top.

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Poulos Seafood Box

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COOKING IDEAS

The Seafood Box from Poulos Bros brings together some excellent Australian shellfish and snapper. Try topping the scallops in the half shell with some garlic and lemon butter and grilling them or broiling them in your oven. Top opened oysters with mignonette or with fresh lemon juice or like the scallops, top with garlic butter and try grilling or broiling them. Peel prawns and dip into a cocktail sauce or better yet, use peeled prawns in a white bread sandwich filled with shredded iceberg lettuce and cocktail sauce, almost as good as being at the beach.

CHEF'S TIPS

As for cooking snapper fillets, I have a few tips for achieving a crispy skin at home. Using a sharp knife, make 5-6 thin cuts into the skin (not through the flesh) this is so that when the fish hits the hot pan and the skin seizes up it doesn’t “bow” in the centre.

The idea is to keep the full skin in contact with the pan the whole time. You also want to dry it off really well. I will try to leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to let some of the moisture from the skin evaporate.

When ready to cook, season your fillet and get your pan quite hot. Be generous in the amount of olive oil or clarified butter you use. Place the fish skin side down first and be careful of any splattering. Press it down using a weight or another pan or plate on top of the fish. You don’t want to squash it, you just want to gently keep it pressed for the first minute or two.

Cook it most of the way through on the skin side and then just flip once to cook on the flesh side for 30 seconds only. Drain it on some paper towels or go straight to the plate. A squeeze of some lemon and a salad or some roasted potatoes and that’s all you need.

Alternatively, the snapper can be also cooked into a fish curry, grilled for fish tacos or baked “en papillote” with some white wine, tomatoes, olives, fennel seeds and olive oil. It’s a very versatile fish that can be used in many different ways.

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Parisi Seasonal Veggie Box

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AUTUMNAL DELIGHT

In looking at the veggie box the feeling I get is that we are well and truly into Autumn. This is an excellent time of year to be cooking the sort of warming and comforting meals so many of us need right now. For example, use the butternut pumpkin and Spanish onions to make a delicious spiced pumpkin soup. You could even make a Bolognese sauce for pasta if you had some mince using the carrots, onions and tomatoes.

To accompany either of those things, sautee some silverbeet (don’t forget to slice the stems thinly and use them too-they are delicious!), grill or steam some bok choy, or make an iceberg and cucumber salad with a good vinegary dressing.

Alternatively, make an excellent chicken soup with the onions, leek, carrots, parsley stems and some pieces of butternut squash or peeled sweet potato which kind of fall apart as the soup simmers, thickening and sweetening the soup. My mom always put some pumpkin in her chicken soup, and you wouldn’t believe how delicious it can be.

Sweet potato makes an excellent meal in themselves and only needs some garnishing elements. Oil and salt them, wrap them in a piece of aluminium foil and roast until soft throughout. Top with some sour cream, yoghurt or tahini and top with a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of chili flakes and salt.

Finely chop broccolini and sautee with some minced garlic and anchovies in lots of good olive oil and simply add some cooked spaghetti. As for eggplant, make one of my all-time favourite pastas, pasta “alla norma”. Fry diced eggplant in lots of olive oil add minced garlic and some tinned or fresh tomato and toss with cooked rigatoni. A sprinkle of parmesan and chopped parsley finishes it off. Chop the stems of the parsley too and use them to cook a pot of mussels with tomatoes, garlic and white wine.

STORAGE SUGGESTION

Not everything needs to be kept refrigerated if you are running out of space. Leave onions, potatoes, butternut, avocado and tomatoes out on your bench in a bowl or basket. Refrigerate the rest and wrap your parsley in a piece of paper towel to extend its life.

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Parisi Seasonal Fruit Box

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STANDOUT SEASONAL FRUIT

The fruit in the seasonal fruit box has a number of different uses beyond the usual “piece of fruit”. The standout to me is fuyu persimmon which is making its seasonal debut in the last few weeks. Peel and slice thinly using a mandoline or cut into thin wedges and make it into a salad by tossing with some vinegar, olive oil, salt, honey and chili flakes.

Persimmon is a type of Japanese fruit most commonly known for its two varieties, fuyu (aka Kaki) which you have, are meant to be eaten crunchy and hachiya which you will see later in the season which are unbearably tannic (unedible for all intents and purposes) until they ripen to the point of jelly where they make an excellent baking ingredient, or as the Japanese do, peel and hang the persimmons allowing them to dry, a process known as hoshigaki. If your fuyu retains a bit of tannin, try peeling it or allowing it to ripen for a couple of days, but note it should remain crisp and firm. Once a fuyu becomes soft it will begin to turn. It’s a very interesting fruit.

Red grapes are an excellent topping for a home-made focaccia. Pears, apples and plums are inspiration for autumnal baking of cakes and galettes. Rockmelon and prosciutto salad are a classic for a reason. Piel de sapo, literally translating from Spanish to “skin of the frog” is the green skinned melon which can be used in much the same way you use rockmelon. And lemons and limes are essentials in my kitchen. I use them to finish off almost every savoury dish I make. Try adding some orange into a Moroccan inspired lamb braise. As for bananas, they are a perfect snack but try peeling and freezing them once they are well ripened to mix into smoothies or to have available for banana bread baking whenever the mood strikes.

STORAGE SUGGESTION

Leave rockmelons and piel de sapo out of refrigeration until you are sure they are fragrant and ripe. Once cut, do cover and place in the fridge. Citrus does not require refrigeration but will last weeks if kept in the fridge. Apples and bananas can also stay out but again it will just shorten the life. With most fruit, a good rule of thumb is it if it has a thick skin, leave it out, thinned skinned fruit like grapes really wants to be kept cold and off the radar of fruit flies.

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Silverbeet Gratin

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Danielle shares her favourite silverbeet gratin recipe with us, inspired by our seasonal veggie box. It goes perfectly as a side with roast meat.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch of silverbeet, washed
  • 2 medium brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 20g plain flour
  • 70g butter
  • 250ml milk
  • 60g grated gruyere or other similar cheese
  • Grated parmesan
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • Nutmeg

INSTRUCTIONS

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Strip the leaves from the stems of the silverbeet and cut them into large pieces, then cut the stems into thin slices on the bias. Boil the stems first for 3-4 minutes, then remove them from the water and allow to cool on a plate or tray. Boil the leaves as well, but only cook them for about 2 minutes. Scoop them out and allow to cool.

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees. Sauté the sliced onions in butter over a medium heat in a large, wide skillet, adding a pinch of salt – cook for about 10 minutes until they are very soft and caramelized. Add in the flour and stir that around and cook for one minute. Follow with adding the milk and bring it to a gentle simmer. Season this quite well with salt, black pepper and a bit of nutmeg.

Now, squeeze the leaves of the silverbeet to get most of the water out and then add them and their stems to the pan. Stir to combine. Pour this mixture into a gratin dish and sprinkle the gruyere and some freshly grated parmesan on top. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. Then uncover the gratin and place it under the grill for 1-2 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Don’t walk away while the gratin is under the grill as it can go from golden to burnt very quickly!

SERVING TIP

Danielle recommends serving this hot alongside roasted or grilled meats…it goes especially well next to lamb.

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Recipe image

Baja Style Gurnard Tacos

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Inspired by our fresh and local seafood box, here’s Danielle’s recipe for Baja style fish tacos.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1kg Boneless gurnard fillets
  • 12 pack corn or flour tortillas

Pickled onions:

  • 1 small red onion
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt
  • 50ml lime juice
  • 50ml orange juice

Batter:

  • 170g plain flour (extra for dredging)
  • 1 tin of beer
  • Salt
  • Pinch of bi-carb powder
  • 1-2L rice bran or canola oil

Crema:

  • 80g sour cream
  • 60g mayonnaise
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt

Garnishes:

  • Thinly shaved cabbage
  • Sliced radish
  • Hot sauce
  • Sliced avocado
  • Fresh coriander
  • Sliced fresh chilis

INSTRUCTIONS

In a small pot, cover the onions, black peppercorns and bay leaves in cold water. Bring to the boil and drain immediately. Transfer to a jar and add a good pinch of salt. Cover with the lime and orange juice then seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. This will develop the colour and flavour, turning the onions bright pink. You can do this a few days ahead of time.

For the crema, combine all the ingredients and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. Before moving onto the batter, prepare and set-aside the garnishes.

In a wok or large Dutch oven, heat the oil to 180-190 degrees. Whisk the batter ingredients together so there are no lumps, gradually pouring the beer until the mix resembles a thin pancake-batter consistency – you might not need the whole tin.

Now, salt the fish fillets and dredge in the extra flour, shaking off any surplus. Quickly dip the fillet into the batter, allowing the excess to run off before frying. Make sure to lay the fillets away from yourself when dropping them into the hot oil, frying only 3-4 fillets at a time so as not to overcrowd the pot. Cook until golden brown and allow to drain on paper towels.

Heat the tortillas, build your tacos and enjoy!

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