Thursday, April 29, 2010

Chocolate Souffle - Cookbook Challenge - Week 24

Out of the hundreds and possibly thousands of recipes I have featuring chocolate, I decided before even looking through my books that I wanted to have a go at a classic chocolate souffle for this weeks challenge, something I love to eat when out yet have never cooked myself.  I have attempted more complicated souffles and some simple fruit based souffles yet chocolate had somehow been missed.  I found a recipe in Relaxed cooking with Curtis Stone, the recipe mentions that normally only cocoa is used and the addition of chocolate in this one makes it even more rich & irresistible.  The recipe was pretty straightforward to put together.  As you can see from my photo, even though I tried my best to get the butter and sugar coating on evenly my souffles still managed to rise uneven, no effect on the flavour, purely a presentation issue so it didnt bother me too much.  Also, by the time the 12 minutes cooking time was up they hadnt risen all that much so I let them go a couple of extra & they rose well though there was no gooiness left.  They were still lovely & moist  and hadnt dried out at all, I just prefer them with that hint of goo in the middle.  All in all I was happy with the outcome, the flavour was nice & rich without being too over the top, though I didnt think they were that sensational & will probably stick to ordering them when out for now.  Now to find the perfect recipe to use up all of those egg yolks leftover.

Chocolate Souffles - Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone

Serves 6.

15g unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for coating the souffle dishes
125g good quality dark chocolate (60-70 % cacao), coarsley chopped
1/2 cup cold water
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
6 large egg whites
icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180c.  Coat the interiors of 6 240ml souffle dishes (mine were smaller so I made 8) completely with the butter, then coat them with sugar.  Place the dishes on a baking tray.

Stir the chopped chocolate in a large bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until it is melted and smooth.  Whisk in the cold water and the cocoa powder.  Remove from the heat & set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites in a large bowl until they are soft peaks.  Gradually beat in the 1/3 cup sugar.  Continue beating until the egg whites are shiny and form soft peaks when the whisk is removed.  Fold a quarter of the mixture into hte warm chocolate mixture.  Fold in the remainin egg whire mixture.  Divide between the dishes & bake for about 12 minutes until puffed but still moist in the centre.  Lightly dust with ising sugar & serve immediatley.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Morning Tea with some mums, kids & bubs

 Another lovely, summery, autumn day in Melbourne, I invited a couple of the girls from mothers group over with their 3 yr olds, bubs & one due to arrive shortly.  We sat outside & tried to relax over these delicious passionfruit melting moments, the kids had other ideas & we mostly spent the time running around fetching things for them, keeping the crawler out of trouble, pushing the swings & lots of keeping the peace.

Oh well, it was still a nice way to spend the morning & surely soon they will amuse themselves & we can maybe even break out some wine to really relax!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Leaf - The Cookbook Challenge - Week 23

With a theme this week of leaf, for something different, instead of making a nice healthy salad or dish using lovely spinach or the like I thought I would make a creamy pasta dish that included lettuce, it sounded quite odd so I thought this was the perfect time to see how it tasted.  The recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen garden Companion, a book that I have used a bit in this challenge & a lot any other day of the week too, I love it & have so many recipes bookmarked to try, I hope I can get to them all soon. 

The lettuce has quite a distinct flavour that is obviously very lettucey (making up words here), wilted down in the pasta I actually found it quite odd though I did really enjoy it too.  The recipe itself I had picked out before last weeks Doctors appointment in which I was given 2 months to get my cholesterol down, so butter, prosciutto, cream, this may be the last I see of you for a while in such large quantities though I refuse to give all the good things in life up entirely & am definitely not giving up baking!  Will be very interesting to see how I go retesting in 2 months.  As such, I really enjoyed this bit of luxury, even if in such a simple dish.  W ho doesnt love a creamy pasta sauce full of beautiful prosciutto & balanced out by lovely fresh peas, worth a look even if only once in a while.  Note the recipe in the book also comes with fresh pasta instructions which I will leave out as I was in a hurry & went with a packet.

Lets see how healthy I can make chocolate next week, I think if I use good quality dark chocolate I can sneak in something really yummy!

Pasta with Peas, Lettuce & Prosciutto - Stephanie Alexander - Kitchen Garden Companion

Serves 4

40g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
6 slices prosciutto, cut widthways into 1cm wide strips
12 cos lettuce leaves, hard stalks cut away, leaves cut widthways into 3cm strips
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
500gpeas in pod (to yield 1 cup shelled peas)
1 cup pouring cream
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Dried fettucine, pappardelle, etc to serve 4
Grated parmesan, to serve.

Bring a large pan of salted water to boil.  Once boiling, cook pasta according to packet instructions.

Meantime, heat butter & Olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan or saute pan over low heat & gently saute prosciutto until the fat starts to run.  Add lettuce & garlic, then cover pan and cook gently over low heat for 5 minutes or until lettuce is limp.

Add peas & cream to prosciutto/lettuce mix, cover & cook for 5 minutes until peas are tender.  Uncover pan & increase heat to medium, then cook for 2-3 minutes or until cream starts to thicken & deepen in colour.  Toss in drained pasta & parsley, season with salt & pepper to taste, toss well & serve with grated cheese.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Red savoury & sweet - The Cookbook Challenge - Week 22

Red was an easy week for me, the dish that immediately sprang to mind was borscht.  My grandparents on my mum's side were Polish so I grew up eating this delicious soup that I used to actually call 'Red Soup' so how could I not make it, the name plus the wonderful memories it evokes were enough to get me scouring through my books for a recipe.  Would you believe I could only find one recipe and that was in my Bowl Food cookbook, a book I sometimes turn to if I need something quick & easy on the table.  I dont know how authentic the recipe is, I cant actually remember what my Gran put in apart from the obvious, BEETROOT.  Regardless it was sensational, even though I cooked it for about 3 times longer than required, with all the veggies added after the first hour, I think this was what made it, the beef was nice & tender & the veggies had cooked down enough that they were still whole but really took on the flavours of the soup, rather than being just cooked & not really melding if you know what I mean?  I was quite please with the red outcome too, after I chose the soup I was worried it would be too purple, as lets face it, beetroot has more of a pink/purple hue than red.  The tomato saved it though & everything looked quite the right color for the theme to me, definitely a keeper.

The second recipe I wanted to try this week was for some strawberry vacherins.  I picked up some super sweet Sunny Ridge strawberries from the Collingwood Children's farm farmers market last weekend & this seemed like a great way to showcase them.  They are pretty much a meringue with crushed strawberries mixed through before baking.  I served them with ice cream & fresh strawberries as suggested, loved them, crispy outer shells, gooey strawberry flavoured center & the aroma was pretty spectacular too.  I think I'd actually prefer them with a dollop of double cream than the ice cream though so something to keep in mind for next time.

The recipe for Borscht below is per the book, notes from me - I cooked it for 3 1/2 hours as mentioned, adding all of the veggies after the first hour of cooking & the finishing touches, ie lemon juice, sugar, herbs right before serving.  I also used a whole 400g can of tomatoes as couldnt see the point of only using half.

Beef and Beet Borscht - Bowl Food

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
500g beef chuck steak, cut into 2cm cubes
1 litre beef stock
2 small beetroot (abt 250g)
200g canned crushed tomatoes
1 carrot, diced
2 potatoes, diced
2 1/2 cups (190g) finely shredded cabbage
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
Sour Cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 200c.  Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook the onion & garlic over medium heat for 3-5 minutes.  Add the beef, stock & 1 litre water & bring to the boil.  Reduce heat & simmer, covered, for 1 hour 15 minutes, or until the meat is tender.  Remove the meat.

Meantime, trim the beetroot just above the end of the leaf stalks.  Wrap in foil and bake for 30-40 minutes or until tender.  Unwrap & leave to cool.

Return the stock to the boil and add the tomato, carrot and potato and season with salt.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Add the cabbage and cook for 5 minutes.  Peel & dice the beetroot.  Return the meat to the pan & add the beetroot, lemon juice, sugar & 1 1/2 tablespoons each of parsley & dill.  Cook for 2 minutes or until heated through.  Season to taste.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream & garnish with remaining herbs.

Strawberry Vacherin - Bill Granger - Feed Me Now

Serves 8

250g ripe strawberries
250g caster sugar
4 medium egg whites
pinch of sea salt

Vanilla or strawberry ice cream or cream to serve

Preheat the oven to 120c.  Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Ina bowl, crush 4 or 5 of the berries with 1 tablespoon sugar, using the back of a fork.

Place the egg whites & salt in a clean, dry, large bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.  Add the rest of the sugar gradually, whisking continuously, until the mixture becomes stiff & glossy.  Add hte crushed strawberry mixture gradually and whisk through.

Spoon the meringue mixture into 8 mounds on the prepared baking tray and bake for 1 1/4 hours.  Remove from the oven & allow to cool.  (Meringues can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.)

To serve, top each meringue with a scoop of ice cream and scatter with the rest of the strawberries.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Thai Feast - Cook book Challenge - Week 21

Let me start by saying I love Thai food so I was very excited about choosing the menu for this weeks Cook Book Challenge theme.  Originally I planned on making some type of Thai curry then changed my mind as I thought that might be a bit boring, not boring to eat, just something I have done many times before & am quite comfortable with.  I ended up going with 3 recipes, a home made sweet chilli sauce & Gai Yang: Thai barbecued chicken, both from Ben O'Donoghue's Ben's Barbecue & on the side a Thai cucumber salad from Stephanie Alexander's the Cooks Companion.

The sweet chilli sauce was sensational, so much nicer than from a jar & pretty simple too, I halved the chilli quantity & it still had quite a bit of kick to it so very happy with that decision.  The chicken was really, really good too, I think basting the chicken in the leftover marinade mixed with coconut cream was the final touch that made this dish so delicious.  Note, I used chicken thigh fillets, my all time favourite chicken cut rather than jointing a whole chicken, basically I have no idea how to do it & am too lazy, would rather just slap the thighs in the marinade & I always find them so tender too.   The cucumber salad on the side was a nice refreshing touch, I left out the chilli as I was pretty sure between the chicken & the sauce we had enough & I was spot on, I also used cashews instead of peanuts as I have a no peanut house, cashews I find to tbe the best substitute & love them.  I wonder if you could make a satay sauce with cashews, I love a good satay & miss it o so much, anyone tried it with anything other than peanuts?

Overall, loved Thai week & found some recipes I will definitely use again

Sweet Chilli Sauce - Ben O'Donoghue - Ben's Barbecue

500g caster sugar
500ml white wine vinegar
500ml water
4 lemongrass stems, peeled & finely sliced
10 garlic cloves, peeled
15 long red chillies, chopped (feel free to halve this amount!!!) 
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine the sugar, vinegar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Place the lemongrass, garlic, chillies and salt in a food processor & pulse to a fine texture.  Add the paste to the saucepan, then simmer and reduce by half.  Skim off any floating bits or any foam that forms.

Once thick, set aside to cool.  Will keep for up to 2 months in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Gai Yang: Thai Barbecued Chicken - Ben O'Donoghue - Ben's Barbecue

Serves 4.

1 x 1.5kg chicken, cut into 8 joints, trimmed of fat and excess skin (or sub with skinless chicken thigh fillets as I did)
1/4 cup coconut cream


5 coriander roots, washed & chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
5 Thai pink shallots, peeled
1 birdseye chilli
1 tblspn minced turmeric or turmeric powder
2 tblspns freshly ground white pepper
3-4 tblspns fish sauce to taste
2-3 tblspns palm sugar to taste

For the marinade, use a heavy mortar and pestle or food processor, and puree the coriander roots, garlic, shallots, chilli and turmeric.  Add the pepper, fish sauce and sugar to taste, and mix well.  Rub the marinade into and under the skin of the chicken and leave it to marinate in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

Remove from the fridge & allow to come to room temperature.

Cook the chicken in a frypan or griddle pan over high heat, turning & basting frequently with the leftover marinade mixed with the coconut cream, until cooked through.

Thai cucumber salad - Stephanie Alexander - The Cooks Companion

Serves 4

4 shallots, very finely sliced
1 tblspn vegetable oil
2 long cucumbers, peeled and seeded
1 tblspn brown sugar
2 tblspns rice or white wine vinegar
1 fresh chilli, seeded & finely chopped (optional)
50g peanuts, roasted & chopped (substitute with cashews)
2 tblsons freshly chopped coriander leaves & stems
fish sauce

Saute shallots gently and slowly in oil until brown but not burnt.  Drain on kitchen paper.  Cut cucumber into 1 cm cubes.  Dissolve sugar in vinegar.  Toss vinegar mixture through cucumber, then add all other ingredients, seasoning to taste with fish sauce.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Happy Easter and a healthy start to the day, all down here from there

For me these days Easter is all about family & eating.  This said, I felt I could get away with some cheesy pics of Chloe & Josh with their Easter Egg loot from the Bunny, though the photo shows the closest Josh will come to actually eating a chocolate for a couple more months at least, for now he just gets to enjoy the bright wrapping.

I started the day with some bircher muesli Hellenic Republic style.  Bircher muesli is a summer favourite of mine now in it's last days before I move on to warmer porridges.  This recipe differs to my usual with the addition of pureed strawberry & segmented oranges added to the mix.  Very nice though be warned the mixture says it serves 4, I think it could easily go 8!

After brekkie & ester eggs we were off to lunch at my mums for a tradional lunch of sauerkraut soup, roast & some chocolate/orange mousse & a pistachio, chocolate & pear cake baked by me.

What did everyone else do for Easter?  Off to the couch for me now I think....

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Another Thai Beef Salad - Cookbook Challenge - Week 20 - Tangy

I had a rather difficult time coming up with a recipe for this weeks theme of Tangy.  I could easily have made a sweet recipe, a citrusy cake perhaps?  However I didnt have anyone to feed cake to this week & as I've been really good to myself lately & have stuck to 'the rules' I've imposed on myself I didnt want to bake just for the sake of a challenge.  So I set about trying to find a savoury recipe that sounded tangy to me, Thai was the best I could come up with, the lime juice, fish sauce & lemongrass dressing fit the bill even though the chilli might have made this dish more apt for a spicy theme. I also seriously cut down on the quantity of spring onions & shallots & added some lettuce instead as there is only so much onion I can eat in one sitting.

Conflicted as I was, I had no problem eating this dish.  I've recently discovered a great butcher & I swear whenever I cook a meal with his meat it is great, tender & full of flavour, so the simple dressing & bits & pieces of spring onions, shallots, coriander & the like lifted it to a fab weeknight dinner.  By the way, when I'm cooking something like this which Chloe who is only 3 will not eat, even the mildest of chillies hurt her tongue, (dont worry will keep trying her until she is a chilli trooper like the rest of us!), to avoid cooking 2 meals, I just make some veg & salad on the side & give her the meat minus the dressing, she does love a good piece of steak too. 

Anyhow, the recipe comes from Ben O'Donoghue's Ben's Barbecue, a book I recently acquired for free simply by purchasing 6 bottles of Penfolds wine in a recent Safeway promotion, having been known to enjoy the odd drop or two, this posed no problem I can tell you & hey presto, I have yet another cook book.  This is the second recipe I've tried from the book & let me tell you, the first was a major disaster that I did manage to salavage, the recipe for foccacia, the mixture was so soggy it was like soup, I had to add about a ton of flour to achieve a dough & of course by then it was more like bread in the end & didnt in any way resemble what it was supposed to.  On thinking about it but by no means being an expert I think the quantities were out, 1.5 litres of water to 1kg of flour all up, what does everyone else think?  Anyway luckily no 2 was a winner so dont have to toss the book just yet.  Will actually be using it next week for the Thai theme too, funny that I actually made Thai the week before for Tangy & now have to do it again, should really plan ahead a bit better.

Thai Beef Salad - Ben O'Donoghue - Ben's barbecue

Serves 4

2 bunches spring onions, washed, outer leaves removed, roots & tips trimmed
3 red chillies, finely sliced
10 Thai pink shallots, finely sliced
1 bunch coriander, washed & chopped
3 sticks lemongrass, peeled & thinly sliced
400g rump or sirloin steak
salt & freshly ground black pepper
juice of 3 limes
5 tablespoons fish sauce

Finely slice the spring onions on the diagonal and place in a bowl with the chillies, shallots, coriander & lemongrass.

Prepare your barbecue (or grill pan over the stove) for direct grilling  over a high heat.  Season the beef with a good amount of salt & pepper, then cook to your liking.  I prefer a medium-well-done as I think you get a more flavourful salad.  Allow the meat to rest while you dress the salad.

Squeeze the lime juice over the spring onion salad, followed by the fish sauce, then toss to combine.  Slice the meat finely, removing the fat.  Add to the salad & toss to combine, then serve.