Tag Archives: Easy Recipe

Chili Con Carne Mac and Cheese

Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

One of my dreams is to one day own a mac and cheese food truck!

You can just about make any flavour and then toss it through macaroni and bake it.  Imagine all the things you like, then mix it in with macaroni.  For example, I love chili and chili con carne, mix it in with macaroni, put cheese on top and and bake it in the oven and you have chili mac and cheese.  You can also have it cold like a salad like they do in the Philippines.  There they have a salad with macaroni, its usually with pineapple, ham, palm seeds, cheddar cheese and coconut dressed with mayonnaise or sour cream, sounds weird but bloody tasty stuff.

Flavours are endless really, vego’s can have Napolitana sauce and cheese or use three types of cheeses and mix it with some mustard and a little cream and bake it with some nice cheddar on top.  My favourite flavour that I’ve come up with is roasted, crispy pork belly all chopped up and tossed in a dry pan to crispen up a little more, finish it some strips smokey roasted capsicums (peppers for non Aussies), roasted red onions and chipotle sauce, toss through macaroni and bake in the oven with some stinky cheese like an Epoisses or Taleggio.  Decadence with all the good things in one plate!  Served with crushed avocado on top and sour cream and boy, you’ve got a dish no one will turn their backs on.

Try this out for starters and see what the fuss is all about.  I am using the chili recipe from the a previous blog to make things a little easier or if you make that chili recipe and wonder what you can do with any left overs.

If you cook up a braise dish like osso bucco or lamb shank or even a curry, try cutting the meaty bits down a little more and toss it through macaroni, add cheese that closely fits its flavour profile on top and bake it and who knows, maybe you can come up with your original mac and cheese!

Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang

Macaroni and Cheese

Serves 8


700gr Raw Macaroni

100gr Salt

500gr Alexandrina Cheddar Cheese – grated

1 Recipe of Chili Con Carne Recipe – previous articles



For the Macaroni

  1. Place ten litres of water to boil with the salt
  2. Once boiling, add the macaroni and cook until al dente.  This is when you bite into a pasta, it has some resistance to the teeth but no crunch
  3. Staring in a colander and run cold water through, set aside until needed


To Finish:

  1. Pre Heat the oven at 180 degrees Celsius
  2. Using a large pot, place the chili con carne sauce and heat up until simmering
  3. Add the blanched pasta and stir through for about 5 minutes
  4. Place into a baking dish
  5. Sprinkle the cheese on top until “all” the surface area is covered, this will inhibit the pasta from getting dry
  6. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven or until the cheese is golden brown
Photo by Jun Pang

Photo by Jun Pang


Baked Sour Dough with Brie and Chive Butter, Green Tomato Chutney

Photo by Jun Pang

So, we have been through compound butters before.

If you can’t remember, a quick re-cap.  It is basically “flavoured” butter.  Simply put, you take softened butter, place it in a mixer and add flavourings such as nuts, herbs etc.  Depending on what you are going to use the butters for will depend on the ingredients you put into the butter for flavour.  For example, chopped herbs with lemon zest will go great with flavouring fish, a little bit of Jus (refined juices from a roast, most home cooks would call it “gravy”) and some type of fruit jelly with chopped herbs would go great with grilled beef and so on.

Most compound butters acts as a sauce in essence.  This type of compound butter is the flavouring agent and adds moisture to the bread.  The butter used for “garlic breads” is a type of compound butter.

I have added cheese to this butter for an extra element of flavour and goes well with aged sour dough bread.  If you exchange the cheese from brie to a blue cheese or a “stinky” wash rind cheese like a talegio, then you can perhaps use that in pastas.  Simply blanch pasta, a fusili perhaps, add to a heated pan with a little normal butter, add garlic and broccolini, toss the pasta through then finish with knobs of this “stinky” cheese  compound butter with lashings of herbs and you have a flavoursome and quick meal.

Make plenty of this butter as mentioned in prior blogs and freeze it in small batches and when ever you have limited time to make a meal, take a protein, add this on top and simply bake in the oven, grill or toss through a heated pan and there you go, a meal in seconds.

The chutney can also be used in many ways.  In this recipe, the acidity from the green tomatoes simply counter balances the richness of the compound butter, really smoothing out the palate.  The vincotto is also great for sweetness with a type of “prune” flavour  finish.

This dish does act as a great starter to a meal but it can also be a meal in its self.  Add some sliced parma ham, some dressed rocket and you have a complete and appetising light meal.

Photo by Jun Pang

Baked Sour Dough with Brie and Chive Butter, Green Tomato Chutney

Enough for 4 people

1 Sour Dough Loaf

For the green tomato chutney:

1kg Green Cherry  Tomatoes

300ml Cider Vinegar

400gr Brown Sugar

1 Brown Onion – diced

1 Cinnamon Stick

5 Star Anise

For the compound butter:

300gr Brie – softened

200gr Butter – softened

1 Bunch Chives – finely sliced

To Finish:

2 Punnets Baby Herbs


Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)


For the green tomato chutney:

  1. Place the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, onion, cinnamon stick and start anise in a pot.  Cook for about 3 hours on low heat, continually stirring until it breaks down and looks and states like a chutney.  May need to adjust sugar quantity depending on the tomatoes.

For the compound butter:

  1. Place the butter and brie in a mixer and mix using a paddle on low until it blends together.  It does not have to be super smooth, then add the chopped chives.
  2. Cut deep slits into the loaf on a slight angle but do not cut through.
  3. Butter the slits with the brie butter and cover with foil.
  4. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius in an oven or Webber for about 10 minutes.

To finish:

  1. Serve with tomato chutney on top and garnished with herbs.
  2. Drizzle the vincotto and EVOO for dipping.

Vincotto – is cooked grape must.  Simply put, it is the residue that is left from pressing grapes then that residue is cooked for a long period of time until it is slightly caramelised.  The end product is thick, dark (almost black) liquid, similar to reduced balsamic.  The flavour is much like prunes but it can also be infused with flavourings such as fig and orange on production.  Great to finish a dish such as duck with high level of sweetness but can also be treated much the same way as a vinaigrette, emulsified with EVOO, salt and pepper and used in many salads.

Wholly Duck!!

Photo by Jun Pang

I never used to like duck.  I was never around it all that much growing up.  Filipinos don’t normally cook with duck so I didn’t really discover it until I was cooking in a commercial kitchen.  I assume that most people are the same. Most people I know haven’t really eaten a lot of duck in their lives unless of course it was in a restaurant.

Duck is a “some times” ingredient for many people, often classified to many home cooks in the “too hard” basket.  What do you do with it?  How do you prepare it?  What other ingredients does it go with?  So how do we as chefs expect home cooks to cook with it if they don’t know much about it?

Duck has a slightly “gamey” flavour, with a meat that can sustain a number of cooking methods.  There are several breeds of ducks that are used for cooking, mainly the Muscovy  and the Pekin duck in Australia.  Pekin ducks are the most used, a little less gamier in flavour and the texture is a lot more tender.  The meat on the Pekins are lighter in colour but can sustain and reacts well to most cooking styles.  Bred primarily for domesticated use, Pekin ducks originated from the Mallard, anther breed of duck that is popular in most kitchens.

So how do you use it?  The French love it confited, a type of cooking where the chef slowly cooks it in its own juices or rendered fat.  From this they make several other foods like rillettes, a type of pate served with crispy bread.  The French also make things like terrines, sausages, roulades amongst other things with the most popular dish arguably being, Duck a l’orange which is duck served with a deep, rich orange glaze.

In the East, duck is one of the most favoured ingredients to cook and eat.  Emperors from many Chinese Dynasties have favoured and enjoyed duck.  The most famous of all the dishes being the Peking Duck.  Chinese red roasted duck with thin, crispy and crunchy skin served with thin pancakes and hoisin sauce.

For the home cook, if you want poultry with a difference then try duck.  You can cook with it much like chicken but the duck skin carries a little more fat and the flavour can be a little over powering.  Best way to get around that is to render it down by slowly sealing it on a dry pan, allowing to naturally render the fat down a little so it’s not too strong.  After that, use duck as you would chicken recipes.

The best use of duck is with oranges or mandarins.  Duck and citrus seem to be good friends.  Spices like cinamon and star anise is another match made in heaven.

Try this recipe with a difference.  Its served with a warm potato salad; seems simple, because it is!  

The sweetness of the vincotto goes well with the duck flavour and the goats cheese has this natural way of leavening the palate, making the dish nice and smooth, allowing you to really enjoy the flavours of duck!

 Seared Duck Breast Salad, Buttered Kipfler Potatoes, Dried Fig and Goats Cheese & Vincotto

Serves 4

300gr Castor Sugar

1 Litre Water

500ml Red Wine

4 Star Anise

2 Cinnamon Sticks

120gr Dried Figs

4 Duck Breast

500gr Kipfler Potatoes – boiled until soft

350gr Goats Cheese Curd

1 Bunch Red Butter Lettuce

100gr Butter


Sea Salt

Black Pepper


  1. First, make a red wine sugar syrup to poach the figs in.  Combine sugar, water red wine, star anise and cinnamon in a small pot and simmer for about 10 minutes
  2. Add the dried figs into the sugar syrup and poach for about 10 minutes on really low, then allow to cool in the liquid.  This liquid can be used many times
  3. First, heat up a pan for the duck breast on medium high heat for one minute
  4. Season the duck with sea salt and pepper and place into the dry pan skin side down.  The fat from the breast will render and help crisp the skin.  Cook skin side down for at least 10 minutes or until the skin is golden brown and crispy on medium heat then flip on the breast side and cook for a further 8 minutes and set aside.
  5. Heat up the same pan and add the butter on medium heat.  When the butter starts to froth up, add the potatoes and toss through with seasoning, slightly browning.  Once achieved crumble in a bowl
  6. Slice the duck breast and place into the same bowl along with the goats curd cheese.
  7. Slice the figs and add to the bowl and mix through with a drizzle of Vincotto.
  8. Place butter lettuce on the bottom of a plate, then pile some salad on top with even amounts of ingredients in each salad.

Vego Pasta with Broccolini & Goats Cheese

Pasta is one of those items you should always have in the pantry.  Instant pasta is so easy to cook and there are so many good quality “fresh” dried pastas in the market, you can really have a good choice between almost every type of pasta from your normal spaghetti right through to lasagne sheets.

There is another use for lasagne sheets other than in lasagne’s.  When I was a young apprentice, I remember how much it surprised me when I was shown another use for lasagne sheets.  The chef cooked a chef’s meal by simply heating a pan really hot, cooking lasagne sheets, ripping it into smaller strips and browning it in a pan until it’s slightly “crispy” then adding all the other ingredients through for flavour such as the shallots, garlic and chilli.  Simple dish, quick and using only the ingredients available in the kitchen.

Cooking doesn’t have to be difficult.  You make it as easy or hard as you want.  The recipes in this blog are a mixture between simple, right through to the adventurous.  This vegetarian recipe is definately on the more simple side of the scale.  In later blogs, I will go through making fresh pasta, a skill that is so useful to have for an aspiring home cook!

Photo by Jun Pang

Rag Pasta with Forrest Mushrooms, Broccolini, Peas, Almonds & Goats Curd

Serves 4

300gr Lasagne Pasta Sheets

100gr Butter

2 Shallots – Peeled and Sliced

4 Cloves garlic – Peeled and Minced

1 Large Red Chilli – Deseeded and finely sliced

60gr Dried Forrest Mushroom Mix – Reconstituted in boiling water, strained

100gr Button Mushrooms – Sliced 1mm thick

100gr Fresh(frozen) Peas

120gr Fresh Broad Beans – Blanched and peeled

2 Bunches of Broccolini

120gr Goats Curd

30gr Almonds – Roughly Chopped

100gr Pecorino Cheese

Extra Virgin olive Oil

Seas Salt

Cracked Black Pepper


  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil with about 2 table spoons of salt in it.  Once boiling, place the pasta sheets into the water.  Cook until al dente or with a little “firmness” when you bit into the pasta.
  2. In the meantime, heat up a large pan and add a little olive and all the butter on medium high heat.
  3. Add the chillies and shallots and cook until the shallots turn slightly clear.
  4. Add the garlic and stir through, cooking for a further minute.
  5. Add all the mushrooms to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes, continually stirring.
  6. Just before you strain the pasta, place the peas, broad beans and broccolini in the same pot as the pasta and cook for about 30 seconds.
  7. Strain the pasta, peas, broad beans and broccolini.  Slightly rip the pasta into smaller strips.
  8. Once drained, add the pasta and vegetables to the pan.  Toss the pasta through the mushroom mix.  At this point you may want to add cream if you want to be lavish!!  Once mixed through, turn off the heat and season with sea salt and black pepper.
  9. Using a fine grater or micro plane, grate the pecorino into the pasta.  Stir the cheese in.
  10. Divide the pasta into four equal serves and dollop goats curd on top with a sprinkling of chopped almonds.

Photo by Jun Pang