Monday, December 28, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 7 - Soft

Well here is week 7's Cookbook Challenge number, sorry I never made it to part 2 of Christmas, I started out well & got a photo of my chocolate cupcakes & the fried, stuffed olives & from then on it was mayhem & it wasn't until the crackling was lifted off my fabulous roast pork & the turkey carved that I had a moment of 'Oh My I Forgot the bloody camera' or words to similar effect anyway.  Just to let you know, I used Jamie Oliver's recipe from Jamie's Italy for porchetta, I had a 4kg loin of pork & I have to say it was one of the best roasts I have ever made so if you are after a great recipe for roast pork, please go ahead & try this one.

This weeks theme was soft so I thought I would be a good mum & make some home made ice cream for Chloe, (good in that she would love me, not necessarily because it was any good for her!).  I gave her a couple of flavour options & she opted for cookies & cream.  The recipe was a standard custard base with lots of oreos mixed in half way through the churning process. Chloe very proudly did the crushing for me so I assumed she would be dying to try out the ice cream when it was ready, I mean normally she is begging us to let her have ice cream.  Today we broke it out of the freezer & as I went to scoop it, Chloe was adamant that she didnt want any & wanted some of her old ice cream, a massive tantrum followed with no ice cream consumed by Chloe though Michael & I dug in & loved it.  A few hours later she relented & gave it a go to find that surprise, surprise it was nice after all!  I think next time I will make ice cream to please me, ie alcholic or coffee flavoured or something like Green tea which I wouldnt think that kids would like but of course knowing Chloe she will surprise me.

Love home made ice cream & have again vowed to make lots of different flavours this summer as I do every summer, will see if I get past one this season.

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream from Iced - 180 very cool concoctions

375ml (1 1/2 cups) milk
375 ml (1 1/2 cups) pouring (whipping) cream
60g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
6 egg yolks
125g cream filled dark chocolate biscuits such as oreo's, crushed

Put the milk, cream & sugar in a saucepan over medium heat.  Cook, stirring constantly, for a few minutes, or until the sugar has dissolved and the milk is just about to boil.  Remove from the heat.

Whisk the egg yolks in a large bowl.  Whisk in 60ml (1/4 cup) of the hot milk mixture until smooth.  Whisk in the remaining milk mixture, then return to a clean saucepan and stir constantly over low-medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon.  Do not allow to boil.  Cool slightly, then cover & refrigerate until cold.

Transfer to an ice cream machine & freeze according to manufacturer's instructions, adding the biscuits halfway through.  alternatively, transfer to a shallow metal tray & freeze, whisking every couple of hours until frozen & creamy, add the biscuits during the final beating.  Freeze for 5 hours or overnight.  Makes 1 liter.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 6 - Christmas - Part 1

For my first Christmas post I made a panforte which I have never made before.  For some strange, unknown reason I was dying to make one this year so even though I couldnt find a recipe in my gazillions of cookbooks I bent the rules a little & used a recipe from the Donna Hay Christmas magazine issue.  I am also hosting Christmas day for 20 adults plus a few kiddies so if I dont forget in all the mayhem to take photos I will write about my feast day too.

Back to the panforte, this version used dried apricots, almonds, hazelnuts & some mixed spice.  After looking at a few recipes it seems that most have figs which I love too so next time will have to try a fig version.  I really liked the combination of fruit & nuts in this recipe & enjoyed the panforte which so far has lasted 5 days between Michael, Chloe myself & a few guests too, the fact that it is so dense & chewy makes it perfect for resisting & sticking to only a small portion at a time.

Panforte - recipe from the 2009 Donna Hay Christmas issue

1/2 cup (75g) plain flour, sifted
2 tablespoons cocoa. sifted
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 cup (150g) chopped dried apricots
3/4 cup (120g) roasted almonds, halved
1 cup (140g) roasted hazelnuts, halved
200g dark chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup (230g) honey
1/4 cup (55g) caster sugar
1/4 cup (45g) brown sugar
icing sugar to dust

Preheat oven to 180c.  Place flour, cocoa, spice, apricot, almonds and hazelnuts in a bowl & mix to combine.  Place chocolate, honey, caster and brown sugars in a saucepan over low heat & stir until chocolate has melted.  Pour into the flour mixture and mix well to combine.  Press into a lightly greased 22cm round springform tin lined with non stick baking paper.  Cook for 30 minutes or until the centre is just firm.  Cool in the tin.  Cut into wedges & dust with icing sugar.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 5 - Greek

This weeks challenge was Greek.  Unfortunately I dont own any Greek cook books as yet though I know for a fact that I will be receiving George Calombaris' Greek Cookery from the Hellenic Heart which I am dying for, I have now been twice to Hellenic Republic, am going again for my mums birthday on xmas eve with the kids in tow & cant wait to start cooking some of my now favourite recipes.  So this weeks challenge is a bit early for me & so I stuck to a very simple Greek Salad from Bill Granger's Open Kitchen.  I know it's very boring for a challenge however with the craziness of Christmas in full swing this week I just dont have the time for anything more elaborate than a bit of chopping & grilling.  A lovely light salad with lots of fresh mint & parsley from the garden & to make it irresistible, lots of gorgeous grilled haloumi heaped on top.  The recipe can be found here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Apte's Banana & Coconut Bread with Honeyed Labne

If anyone has been to Apte in Alphington they will know about their heavenly Banana & Coconut bread.  I ate there quite a while ago when pregnant & was dying to try the famous dish, though on the day they were serving it with rhubarb which I had in my mind for some reason or another you are supposed to avoid when pregnant so had to give it a miss.  Instead I had the ricotta hotcakes which were impressive themselves.  Anyway I digress, the recipe for the banana bread ensemble appeared in a magazine at about the same time we visited, I'm pretty sure it was delicious so I kept a hold of it & finally made it last week.  I served mine with tinned blood plums rather than roasted fruit & it was perfect, it reminds me very much of my all time favourite Syrian style French toast, orange blossom syrup, honey labne, stewed rhubarb & pistachiosfrom Gingerlee in Brunswick. I love the banana bread which was really easy & to serve I just popped a slice in the toaster as needed & topped with all the extras, though next time I might even be tempted to try & make a french toast version with the labne, plums & pistachios & see how close to Gingerlee's I can get it too, it's not so easy to get out for brekky these days with 2 littlies underfoot so if I can replicate a recipe at home, even better.

Banana & Coconut Bread with Honeyed Labne

You will  need to begin the labne a day in advance or try buying some from Middle Eastern food shops

2 cups (300g) self raising flour
1 1/2 cups (330g) caster sugar
1 1/2 cups (135g) shredded coconut
400ml can coconut milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 small bananas, sliced
Roasted fruit (such as rhubarb or blood plums) & chopped unsalted pistachio kernels, to serve

Honeyed labne

1kg Natural yoghurt ( I only made about 250g worth & it lasted the whole loaf so I guess it depends on how much dollop you like on your bread)
1/2 cup (175g) honey (as above I only added about 1 tablespoon)

For the labne, line a mesh strainer with a piece of muslin or a clean chux cloth & set over a large bowl.  Place the yoghurt in the strainer, then gather the cloth up & secure with string or a rubber band.  Place in the fridge & allow to drain for at least 12 hours or overnight until thickened & creamy.  Remove from cloth & discard the liquid in the bowl.  Whisk in the honey until smooth, chill until needed.

Preheat oven to 160c.  Grease & line a 10cm x 30cm loaf pan.  Combine flour, sugar & coconut in a bowl.  Place the coconut milk, eggs & vanilla extract in a separate bowl & whisk to combine.  Add the egg mixture to the dry mixture & stir until just combined.  Fold in sliced banana, then pour into prepared tin,  Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool slightly in th epan, then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Slice banana bread and serve plain or lightly toasted with the labne, fruit & pistachios.  The bread will keeep in the fridge for 3-4 days.  Reheat or toast before serving.


Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 4 - Beans

This weeks theme is beans.  Rather than trying to find a complete meal to make using beans I decided on a side.  I have so many recipes in my books focusing on wonderful sides which I normally ignore in favour of the more seductive looking main meals that I have decided to put in a big effort to make more sides. This Bean Salad recipe comes from my latest book, Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion, the book really does turn simple ingredients into special dishes.  The recipe uses green & yellow beans however I was away this weekend & didnt have time to hunt around so was stuck with last minute shopping & no yellow beans.  I cannot believe how simple this salad is, it just proves that if you use quality ingredients like fantastic marinated goat's cheese, olives & fresh herbs from the garden than that is all you sometimes have to do to impress.

Green & Yellow Bean Salad

1 tablesoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of your favourite olives
2 teaspoons small salted capers, soaked in water for 5 minutes, drained & patted dry (I omitted the patting)
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons chopped chives
150g green beans, trimmed
150g yellow beans, trimmed
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
marinated goat's cheese, to serve

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to the boil.  Meanwhile, put olive oil, olives, capers, parsley & choves into a mixing bowl.

Cook beans seperately in the water for 8 minutes each & drain, dont run cold water over them as this will leave them tasting of water rather than beans.  Add beans to the mixing bowl.  Mix well, taste & season with salt & pepper.  Arrane on a serving platter & top with goats cheese.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Cookbook Challenge - Week 3 - Hor d'oeuvres

This weeks them was Hor d'oeuvres.  I wasnt doing any entertaining for a change so Michael & I got the experiment for dinner which is good as after my first ever attempt of rice paper rolling I suck & need lots of practice.  This is a good things as a) the Vietnamese prawn rolls I made were absolutely delicious even though they were falling apart so I'd love to try them again and b) at least I didnt have the embarrassment of serving them up to people though I'm sure my close friends would have forgiven me.  My main problem it seems was that I just didnt chop my veggies small enough, you can see how chunky mine are in the photo so at least I can work on that, secondly I tried to stuff way too much of everything into each wrapper so a delicate perfect roll was never going to happen.  So the challenge is helping me to experiment so that next time I need to feed the masses I will have some tricks up my sleeve.  The rolls themselves were easy to get ready (apart from the assembly of course, just lots of peeling, chopping & picking of herbs from the garden.  The sauce was lovely, sweet & yet with a lovely tang thanks to the lime juice.  Cant wait for an excuse to try them out again.  Recipe from Small Food - snack sized bites to share with friends which I thought was a fitting book to choose this weeks recipe from.

Vietnamese Prawn Rolls

2/3 cup (170ml) lime juice)
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
1/3 cup (80ml) sweet chilli sauce
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons grated palm sugar or soft brown sugar
12 x 15cm rice paper wrappers
12 cooked medium prawns, peeled & halved lengthways
1 small carrot, cut into 5cm long julienne strips
1 small lebanese cucumber, cut into 5cm batons
1/2 avocado, sliced
3 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves
2 tablespoons torn fresh Vietnamese mint
5 spring onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal

Combine the lime juice, zest, sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce & sugar in a small bowl.

Working with one wrapper at a time, dip a wrapper in a bowl of warn water for 10 seconds to soften, then lay out on a flat surface.  Place 2 prawn halves and a little of each remaining ingredient at one end of the wrapper, then drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the sauce.  Fold in the sides & roll up tightly.  Serve with the remaining sauce for dipping

Makes 12