Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Grand Final Take 1

For grand Final Day Take 1 I made some  footy inspired cupcakes to suit this weeks Cookbook Challenge theme of Cup.  What a day, I went over to my mums with the kids as Michael is lucky enough to be an MCC member & he even got a reserved seat in the ballot, no such luck for the rest of us.  Everyone apart from my Dad was barracking for the Pies so in the spirit of things & feeling a bit sorry for the Saints as they havent won a GF in a VERY long time, I made my cupcakes in both teams colours.  The base recipe I used was Nigella's Night & Day Cupcakes, a beautiful light & fluffy chocolate cupcake with a cream cheese icing which gave me a nice white background to paint the team colours on.  I was pretty pleased with the decorating myself, I haven't dabbled much so am by no means an expert.  Everyone else loved them too.  Now to do it all again this weekend, I think the party is at my place plus I have to take Chloe to the Justine Clarke concert in the morning so will be keeping things on the simple side.  GO PIES and finally put us all out of our misery & let us get on with Spring/Summer.....

Note - I have given the base recipe here, if you want to decorate, I used the icing tubes for sale in supermarkets, much easier than the mess of mixing your own, not to mention having to pipe from a bag!

Night-And-Day Cupcakes - Nigella Lawson - How to be a domestic Goddess

2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons boiling water
75g golden caster sugar
50g dark muscovado sugar
125g self raising flour
2 large eggs
125g very soft unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon milk

200g icing sugar, sieved
100g cream cheese
juice of 1/2 a lime or 1 tablespoon lemon juice
12 chocolate coated coffee beans or dark chocolate (if not decorating in my manner!)

Preheat oven to 200c.  Line a 12 whole muffin tin with paper cases.  Mix the cocoa to a paste with the boiling water and set aside while you make the cupcake mixture.

Put the sugars, flour, eggs, butter & vanilla in a food processor and blitz to combine smoothly. Scrape the mixture down the sides, and then pulse while you add the cocoa paste and mil down the funnel.  You should have a batter with a soft dropping consistency, if not, add a little more milk.  Dollop into the cases in the tin and bake for about 20 minutes, until an inserted cake tester comes out clean.

Leave in the tn for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  When cool, make the icing by beating together the icing sugar & cream cheese until soft.  Add lime or lemon juice to taste & spread over cupcakes.  Decorate with a coffee bean in the middle of each or shavings of chocolate as desired.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spring/Summer garden on the way

I am super excited that the new garden bed has finally been built.  Last weekend Michael and I put in a massive effort, he built, I shoveled, the kids were taken care of & 2 days later, it's all ready to settle in and accept an offering of seeds from me that will hopefully turn into an abundant crop.  Can you see my broad bean bushes & herbs poking through from the side garden bed?

I have so many seeds waiting to plant that I dont think I will fit them in.  So far garden bed number 1 on the left will have corn, potatoes, beans, cucumber, carrots(and/or beets) & Watermelon.  Still have to plan bed no 2 and I have a little space in my existing beds for a couple of things too.  Fingers crossed most of it grows as this is still all pretty new to me though I do hope to get much better over the years.

I will keep you updated on the progress and cooking of crops....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dreaming of Summer

In my impatience for summer to arrive I decided to make a granita with tropical fruits for this weeks Cookbook Challenge.  I know it was madness & I should stick to gooey warming puddings for a couple of weeks yet but I just couldn't resist.  The theme was raw so I guess no matter what I chose it was not going to be a hearty or Wintery dish at all.  I actually had a hard time choosing something to make, I initially wanted to make a salad of some description but nothing took my fancy so fruit salad it was.  Technically the granita has a sugar syrup which is cooked so it's not all raw, though as it ends up frozen with fresh fruit I figured it was pretty close.  The recipe is for passionfruit granita with a suggestion to change to mango if you prefer, yes please, I looooveee mangoes & they so remind me of summer which I am absolutely dying for so mango it was.  The granita is fantastic, sweet & very fresh tasting & perfect with a selection of fruits.  I scooped it over paw paw, kiwifruit & pineapple.  I dont normally eat paw paw & this one left a really unpleasant taste in all our mouths so I dont know if I bought a dud or it's an acquired taste, wont be going there again & will stick to the others which were perfect.  Have some leftover which I think I might have with some sweet red strawberries, esp as the forecast over the next week even shows the temp reaching figures beginning with a 2, yippee!  Oh, did I mention I am also off to Cairns in a couple of weeks for an early taste of summer, VERY EXCITED!!!!  Any recommendations for places to eat (child friendly) or places to go?

Notes - Granita can be stored in the freezer tightly covered for up to a week once made & feel free to mix up the fruit with any combo you like and what is in season/available of course

Exotic fruit salad with passionfruit (or mango) granita - Relaxed cooking with Curtis Stone

Serves 4

1/4 cup sugar
500g ripe passionfruit, halved (or sub with 2 ripe mangoes, pureed)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 pineapple, peeled, cored & cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pawpaw, peeled, seeded & cut into bite sized pieces
1 mango, peeled, pitted and cut into bite sized pieces
1 star fruit, cut into 6mm thick slices
4 kiwis, cut into bite sized pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)

In a small, heavy saucepan, stir 1 cup of water and the sugar together until the sugar dissolves.  Slowly bring the syrup to the boil, then remove it from the heat and let it cool completely.

Spoon the passionfruit pulp or mango puree into the cooled syrup and mix together.  Stir in the lemon juice.  Pour the mixture into a 20cm square baking dish and freeze it for about 30 minutes, or until the mixture is icy around the edges. 

Using a large fork, stir the icy part of the mixture into the remaining mixture in the dish.  Continue to freeze the mixture, stirring in edges every 20 to 30 minutes, for about 1 1/2 hours or longer, or until it is frozen.  Using a lrge fork, scrape the frozen granita into flaky crystals.  Cover & keep frozen.

In a large bowl, gently toss the fruits and mint together.  Spoon into serving bowls, top with granita and serve.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Some simple Chinese - Kylie Kwong Style

That's right, we are up to week 44 of the Cookbook Challenge & it's Chinese theme.  Kylie Kwong's Simple Chinese Cooking had to be the book to use, I love the look of it though rarely cook from it, I think this is actually my second look in for the year thanks to the challenge, I will have to keep reminding myself that it's full of great & simple (as the title states) recipes.  I chose a Hoisin pork stir fry with a Chinese style coleslaw to go alongside.  The picture looks a bit bland however it really was a lovely dish.  Hoisin sauce of course gives the pork a sweet flavour & the quick cooking kept it nice & tender.  I used my wok burner which I normally dont use & I'm sorry, it didn't seem to get the temperature as hot as the regular big burner & my pork seemed to stew rather than stir fry nicely.  It didn't seem to affect the overall flavour though as you can see it ended up a very unappealing greyish color.  Back to the big ring next time I think.  The coleslaw was lovely & fresh though for the life of me I couldn't get Chloe to eat any of it, carrot, cabbage, cucumber, all on her list of no's despite the fact that she is a pretty good eater, oh well a night without veggies occasionally shouldn't cause too much harm.  All in all a nice midweek dinner though not for every day, even though it's all pretty simple, there is a lot of chopping & pickling & making sauces, etc so it actually took a while to prepare.

Stir-Fried Pork Fillets with Hoisin Sauce - Kylie Kwong - Simple Chinese Cooking

600g pork fillets, cut into 5mm slices
1 small cucumber
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce


3 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/4 cup hoisin suace
2 tablespoons malt vinegar
2 tablespoons shao hsing wine or dry sherry
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Combine pork with marinade ingredients in a large bowl, cover, and leave to marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Using a vegetable peeler, finely slice cucumber lenghtways into ribbons, set aside.

Heat oil in a hot wok until surface seems to shimmer slightly.  Add half the pork and stir fry for 30 seconds.  Remove from wok with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add remaining pork with all the marinade and stir fry for 30 seconds. Return reserved pork to the wok with soy sauce and stor fry for a further minute or until pork is just cooked through and lightly browned.

Serve with reserved cucumber

Celery, Carrot and Cabbage Salad - Kylie Kwong - Simple Chinese Cooking

1 small cucumber
3 small carrots, peeled
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 sticks celery, sliced on the diaganol
1/2 cup malt vinegar
2 tablespoons white sugar, extra
2 1/2 cups finely shredded savoy cabbage
2/3 cup sping onion, julienne
1 1/4 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/2 cup mint leaves
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch Sichuan pepper & Salt (basically Sivhuan peppercorns & Sea Salt, dry roasted & then pounded to a fine powder)

Using a vegetable peeler, finely slice cucumber and carrots lenghtways into ribbons.  Set cucumber side and cut carrots into a fine julienne.

Combine carrots in a bowl with sugar and salt, mix well and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Add celery to a small saucepan of boiling salted water and blanch for 30 seconds.  Drain, refresh under cold water and drain again.  Set aside.

Combine vinegar and extra sugar in a small heavy based saucepan and stir over heat until sugar dissolves.  Simmer, uncovered for about 1 minute or until slightly reduced/  Set aside to cool before stirring through pickled carrot.

In a bowl combine reserved cucumber, pickled carrot mixture, celery, cabbage, spring onion, bean sprouts and mint.  Pour over combined soy & lemon juice & mix well.  Arrange in a bowl, sprinkle with Sichuan pepper & salt & serve immediately.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Midweek Moussaka

During the week I have to cook a meal after work for either my parents or Michaels parents when they have finished their babysitting shift & I have finished work.  As Joshie is a very clingy, sookie la-la, mumma's boy, when I finish work at 5pm ( I work from home so am right there when finished), the boy will not stand for anything other than being held so I have to prepare something the night before that can be cooked/reheated very simply.  This works fine for now when warming comfort food is all the go but when the temperature is soaring, an hour in the oven will not do pleasant things to the house, not to mention you dont feel like such heavy food when the heat is on.  So let's hope Joshie decides to have fun with the grandparents before that time arrives or we might be having pizza for dinner, even the pub is out as he goes to bed at abt 6pm no matter how hard we try to keep him up later, I know I shouldn't complain about this!

Anyway this weeks offering was George Calombaris' Moussaka recipe from the Hellenic Republic book, it's also on the menu there & is his mums recipe which can be found here.  I loved it, it has a layer of grilled eggplant on the bottom, a tasty, sweet meaty tomato sauce in the middle, next a layer of grilled sliced potatoes & a keflagraviera cheese bechamel on top which also includes eggs.  The eggs help the sauce to set & the whole thing holds together really well when you serve it, a bonus as I hate it when you have such a tasty dish that falls to slop on the plate when you serve it.  I served it with a Greek salad & it was a winner, everyone gave it the thumbs up!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Happy Fathers Day

Fathers Day this year was a lovely long lunch at my mums, we started with a beetroot soup, then had a warming beef pot roast & to finish with I made dessert.  I had some egg whites in the freezer that were begging to be whipped into a meringue.  I remembered this Jamie Oliver recipe that sounded perfect for this time of year.  Normally I think of a pav/meringue as a summer cake, laden with tropical fruit & cream.  This version however was smothered in roasted nuts, pears & a chocolate ginger sauce as well as the usual whipped cream.  By the time you pile everything on it ends up being a pretty massive affair & to prove how much it was enjoyed, after 5 adults & the 2 kids dug in there was only a teeny piece left.  We all felt sick of course but couldnt stop going back for more it was so good.  So hope all the Dad's out there had a good day, for me that means, family, good food, nice wine & a nap on the couch after lunch as you are so full you cannot budge an inch!  This is my crunchy entry for the cookbook challenge though after the topping went on the meringue wasnt really all that crunchy, oh well, I had good intentions.

Notes: I couldnt for the life of me get the skins of the nuts before they were roasted so I roasted them & peeled them afterwards which was much easier, any tips?  Also, used pears in juice rather than syrup, sauce tasted good this way but maybe it would have been thicker & sticker if syrup used instead?

Tray Baked Meringue with Pears, Cream, Toasted Hazelnuts and Chocolate Sauce - Jamie Oliver - Jamie at Home

4 large egg whites
200g unrefined golden caster sugar
a pinch of sea salt
100g hazelnuts, skins removed
2 x 400g tins of halved pears in syrup
optional: 2 pieces of stem ginger, thinly sliced
200g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
400ml double cream
50g icing sugar, sifted
1 vanilla pod, halved & seeds scraped out
zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 180c.  Line a 40  x 25cm baking tray with baking paper.

Put your egg whites into a squeaky clean bowl, whisk on medium until the whites form firm peaks then with the mixer running, gradually add the sugar and a pinch of salt.  Turn the mixer up to high & whisk for about 7 to 8 minutes until white and glossy.  Spoon the meringue on to the tray & shape it into an A4 size rectangle.  Place in the oven & bake for 1 hour or until crisp on the outside & a little sticky inside.  At the same time, bake the hazelnuts on a separate tray in the oven for an hour or until golden.  Take our of oven when ready and allow to cool.

Drain the tin of pears, reserving the syrup from 1 can.  Cut each pear half into 3 slices.  Pour the pear syrup into a saucepan with the ginger and warm gently over medium heat until it starts to simmer.  Take off the heat and snap the chocolate in to the pan, stirring until it's all melted.

To assemble, place your meringue on a board or tray.  Whip the cream with the icing sugar & vanilla until it forms smooth, soft peaks.  Smash or chop the toasted hazelnuts and sprinkle half of them over the meringue.  Spoon half of the cream over the top & drizzle with some of the sauce.  Divide most of the pears over the top evenly.  Pile over the rest of the cream & pears.  Drizzle with more chocolate sauce, then sprinkle over the remaining nuts & some grated orange zest.  Serve straight away.