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Perfect panforte recipe

I always don a clean pair of dishwashing gloves to mix this dense festive Italian fruit cake, as it’s very heavy to mix with a spoon and you need to work fast so the toffee mixture doesn’t set before it’s mixed through the fruit and nuts. The recipe scales up easily and you can play around with different types of fruit and nuts as long as you keep the ratios consistent.

Ready: 1 1/4 hours | Serves: 2 | Vegan


1 cup skin-on almonds
1 cup hazelnuts
21⁄2 cups dried fruit, such as mixed peel, raisins, chopped dried figs,
dried cranberries or dried cherries
2⁄3 cup plain flour or gluten-free flour
2 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1⁄2 cup honey
1⁄2 cup sugar
60g (2 1⁄4 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
Icing sugar, to dust


Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F) fanbake. Thoroughly grease a 20cm (8in) diameter springform cake tin or line it with baking paper. Line a shallow roasting dish with baking paper for easy clean-up. Spread almonds and hazelnuts out at either end of prepared roasting dish and roast until nuts are fragrant and skins are splitting on hazelnuts (12 to 15 minutes). Cool. Place hazlenuts in a clean tea towel and rub between your hands to remove most of the loose skins (don’t worry if they don’t all come off). Transfer nuts to a large bowl, add dried fruit, flour, cocoa and cinnamon, and stir to combine.

Boil honey and sugar in a pot until mixture reaches ‘soft ball’ stage. You’ll know it’s ready when it reaches 112 to 116°C (234 to 241°F) on a candy thermometer, or when a small drop of mixture dropped into a glass of cold water forms a soft ball when rolled between your fingers.

Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir until it is melted and the mixture is smooth. Pour into dry ingredients and, working quickly, mix with gloved hands or a very strong wooden spoon until combined. Press evenly into prepared cake tin and bake until set (about 35 minutes). Remove from tin while still warm. When cool, dust liberally with icing sugar.


Extracted from Bella: My life in food by Annabel Langbein. Food photography by William Meppem. RRP$49.99. Published by Allen & Unwin NZ.



Chicken Musakhan: Recipe

Serves 4



1 chicken (about 1.7kg), divided into 4 pieces (1.4kg) or 1kg chicken breasts (between 4 and 6, depending on size), skin on, if you prefer
120ml olive oil, plus 2–3 tbsp extra, to finish
1 tbsp ground cumin
3 tbsp sumac
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
30g pine nuts
3 large red onions, thinly sliced 2–3mm thick (500g)
4 taboon breads, or any flatbread (such as Arabic flatbread or naan bread) (330g)
5g parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Salt and black pepper

To serve 
300g Greek-style yoghurt
1 lemon, quartered

Preheat the oven to 200°C fan.

Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1½ teaspoons of sumac, the cinnamon, allspice, 1 teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Mix well to combine, then spread out on a parchment-lined baking tray. Roast until the chicken is cooked through. This will take about 30 minutes if starting with breasts and up to 45 minutes if starting with the whole chicken, quartered. Remove from the oven and set aside. Don’t discard any juices which have collected in the tray.

Meanwhile, put 2 tablespoons of oil into a large sauté pan, about 24cm, and place on a medium heat. Add the pine nuts and cook for about 2–3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the nuts are golden brown. Transfer to a bowl lined with kitchen paper (leaving the oil behind in the pan) and set aside. Add the remaining 60ml of oil to the pan, along with the onions and ¾ teaspoon of salt. Return to a medium heat for about 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onions are completely soft and pale golden but not caramelised. Add 2 tablespoons of sumac, the remaining 2 teaspoons of cumin and a grind of black pepper and mix through, until the onions are completely coated. Remove from the heat and set aside.

When ready to assemble the dish, set the oven to a grill setting and slice or tear the bread into quarters or sixths. Place them under the grill for about 2–3 minutes, to crisp up, then arrange them on a large platter. Top the bread with half the onions, followed by all the chicken and any chicken juices left in the tray. Either keep each piece of chicken as it is or else roughly shred it as you plate up, into two or three large chunks. Spoon the remaining onions over the top and sprinkle with the pine nuts, parsley, 1½ teaspoons of sumac and a final drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once, with the yoghurt and a wedge of lemon alongside.

Extracted from ‘Falastin: a cookbook’ by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, $60). Sami is Executive Head Chef and co-founder of Ottolenghi restaurant in Notting Hill.
Photography by Jenny Zarins


Donna Hay: Simple made special

Donna Hay has always enjoyed cooking, with a grandma and mum who were happy to let her loose in the kitchen from a young age.



I am so incredibly fortunate to have been able to turn my childhood hobby into a lifelong career,” she says.

When we catch up it’s the eve of her new cookbook Week Light (published by HarperCollins) that has hit the street this month, and, even though there have been 27 bestselling cookbooks that have come before it, this one is particularly close to her heart.

She’s been serving as editor-in-chief for her bi-monthly publication Donna Hay Magazine, which closed in July 2018 after publishing 100 issues across 17 years, so it’s her first opportunity to get back to her core passion and let loose in the kitchen. “I’m really excited about this book,” she says.

“After closing the magazine it meant I got to write recipes for myself again and do all the styling. I’m getting back to what makes me happy. The book has been a bit of a personal journey, but it’s also a bit of where I think cooking is heading.”

Week Light offers a new, modern way of eating all the different types of veges, she says. “There’s meat thrown in there as well because I’m quite aware there are people who are into eating veges, but have teenage boys that are keen to eat meat,” she laughs.

So if you once had a phobia of steamed cabbage, this might just have the inspiration to cook it in exciting new ways.

It’s a different approach for the MasterChef generation. Rather than crafting elaborate recipes with a three-hour prep time, the common theme for Hay has always been writing recipes for the home cook. “So they’re simple to follow and made with things that are easily available from the supermarket – not just things you’ll only use once!”

“It’s a different approach; we all have limited time, we’re just juggling things like kids’ homework. People are always drawn to the styling as well. I want them to look at a book and their mouth starts to water, then they realise all the ingredients are right there and they can make that! All those hooks have made me fortunate enough to have a long career.”

When pressed for her foodie philosophy, it’s ‘simple made special’. “Which doesn’t mean simple things made difficult; it’s about simple foods made amazing!”

So how does a day in the life of Donna Hay look these days? “Not as many deadlines, that’s for sure,” she laughs.

“No two days are the same, which is great for me. I never have a day planned, which is how I’ve always been, but now I’m spending more time in the kitchen doing recipes – I love it!”

She’s about to head up a female chef series in Australia, so she’s been reflecting on dishes that have meant something special to her. There’s certainly been plenty to choose from, so does she pick favourites or are they all her babies? “It’s been a journey looking back at dishes that sparked something in my career,” she says.

“I remember a pasta I did early on; its name has even changed over the years to ‘Studio Pasta’ because I used to cook big bowls of it for the studio. It’s had different incarnations, but it’s simply pasta with red chillies, baby capers, lemon rind, garlic, rocket, cracked black pepper and parmesan.

“It has come up so many times in my career and it has meant so much along the way as well, so it’s going to keep going,” she laughs.

Talking of keeping on going, Hay is certainly doing that herself. She’s hitting New Zealand in the near future for ‘An Evening with Donna Hay’, where she will be taking attendees on a journey through the highs and lows of her hugely successful career.

She’s got the overseas launch of Week Light, which will see her traipsing across the globe from Germany to the Netherlands. Then she’s heading back to her homeland for the AO Chef Series at the Australian Open. There’s another book in the pipelines before a big festival in Bondi.

So you can expect to see this name a lot more in the future. But in the meantime, Week Light open on your bench will just have to do.