Monday, May 24, 2010

Sunday Brekky Bill Granger Style - The Cookbook Challenge Week 28

When I first noticed that the theme for week 28 was breakfast I always knew that I would cook a Bill Granger dish, after all he is the king of breakfast isn't he?  Lately there have been a lot of sweet breakfasts, in particular pancakes of one form or another on my menu so I thought it was time for a savoury change.  This recipe for scrambled eggs mixed with golden fried chorizo all eaten in a soft fresh roll was delicious, and the tomato salad on the side was pretty good too.  A simple dish for a busy weekend when you still want a nice cooked start to the day.

Grab and Go breakfast Sandwich - Bill Granger - Feed Me Now

Serves 2

125g Cherry tomatoes
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon shredded coriander leaves
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 Spanish chorizo sausage, about 120g diced
2 spring onions, sliced
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten
2 bread rolls

Halve the cherry tomatoes and place in a bowl with the lime juice, sugar, shredded coriander, salt & pepper.  Stir gently to combine.

Place a frying pan over a medium heat.  When hot, add the chorizo and fry until lightly browned.  Add the spring onions and stir for 30 seconds until softened.  Pour over the beaten eggs.  When they start to set around the edge of the pan, gently stir and turn the mixture with a spatula or wooden spoon until the eggs are just set.

Break open the bread rolls, divide the mixture between them & serve with the tomato salad.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What to do with an insect theme?

What to do with an insect theme for I certainly was not going to be cooking up the real thing, there are some  ingredients that I absolutely will not touch!  So for week 27 of the cookbook challenge, I scoured far in advance as I didnt want to be stuck coming up with a last minute recipe.  I found this 'Bee-Sting' cake in my Good Living 'Winter' cookbook that my mum bought be for Christmas, it's a collection of recipes from Stephanie Alexander, Brigitte Hafner & Jill Dupleix drawn from the Sydney Morning Herald's food and wine section.  This is a Brigitte Hafner recipe, there is no explanation of the cake in the book so a quick google & I have found that it's a traditional German cake so called Bee-Sting as it is topped with honey.  There seem to be many very different versions around, I have never even heard of it before, I think it may have been popular a while back.

 The cake is made of a batter & topped with a nut/butter/honey mixture, then baked, cooled, halved & filled with a custard butter.  It's a delicious, dense cake that is made a bit special with the rich custardy filling.   It is being thoroughly enjoyed by us & visitors who happen to be around this weekend, though I wouldnt make it again as there were a lot of steps & pots & pans used, for that much effort it has to be a 5 star recipe in this house.  It is something different though & worth trying at least once.

Bee-Sting Cake - Good Living Winter

75g unsaled butter, soft
75g caster sugar
1 egg
250g self-raising flour, sifted
6 tablespoons milk

50g whole almonds
50g whole hazelnuts
75g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1 tspn milk
1 tablespoon honey

250ml milk
30g custard powder
50g sugar
100g butter, soft

For the cake.  Preheat oven to 170c.  Cream together the butter and sugar until pale & thick.  Beat in the egg, then gently fold in the flour and milk.  Combine until you have a soft dough.  Grease and line the bottom of a 26cm springform tin.  Spoon the mixture into the tin and level it out.

For the topping.  Grind the nuts until quite coarse.  In a frying pan, gently heat nuts with the butter, suagr and milk, stirring until the butter has melted.  Remove from heat and stir in the honey.  Allow to cool slightly then pour over the cake batter and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

For the custard.  In a small bowl, combine just enough milk to dissolve the custard powder & make a smooth paste.  Now combine the paste & the remainder of the milk and sugar in a small saucepan and cook, stirring, until it thickens and boils.  Cook for another minute, remove from heat and allow to cool a little.

Beat butter until creamy and, when the custard has become lukewarm (the custard should not be too warm, as it will melt the butter), whip butter and custard together until combined & fluffy.

When the cake has cooled, slice through the middle.  Fill with the custard, replace the top & serve.  Serves 10-12

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Eggplant - My favourite ingredient at the moment

I'm in love with eggplant at the moment, I've always liked it though I haven't cooked it all that regularly.  My mum however has a glut of eggplants growing so I am cooking them up every week, searching for new & interesting ways in which to prepare them.  This has to be my favourite recipe yet, they are Eggplant & Port Patties from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion.  The ingredients sounded a bit odd, I have certainly never heard of a rissole of any type containing eggplant that's for sure,  but I trust this book & gave it them a go never to look back.  The patties are moist, didnt break up at all while cooking, the eggplant gives them a delightful creamy, nutty & smoky flavour, & the simple tomato sauce pulls it all together amazingly.  I ate mine alone & cooked up some pasta for the kids to eat theirs with, Chloe, who has been very fussy lately asked me right away to make them again one day & even ate by herself (her thing at the moment is to make us feed her to take the focus of Josh) & even Josh gobbled up every last mouthful of his though he is less hard to please seeming to devour anything I put before him.  I cant wait to make them again & will double the recipe next time.  Here it is with a couple of small changes of mine for those who want to have a go...

Eggplant & Pork Patties - adapted from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden companion

Makes 10

1 eggplant (about 400g)
200g baby spinach, washed
200g minced pork
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
100g fresh ricotta
30g breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
1/2 cup breadcrumbs (extra for crumbing)
olive oil, for frying
1 qty Fast Basic Tomato Sauce (recipe follows)

Heat a barbecue grill plate until hot.   Roast eggplant, turning it 2-3 times so it roasts evenly, it will take about 30 minutes fir skin to char and eggplant to feel quite soft.  Remove with tongs & cool a little.  Peel away charred skin.  Halve lengthways & put into a colander resting over a tray to catch any juices.  After 10 minutes, wrap eggplant in a clean tea towel and gently squeeze.  Chop flesh quite finely & place in a large mixing bowl. 

Place spinach in a non stick frypan over medium heat for a few minutes until wilted down (you will not need any oil as the water on the leaves from washing will be sufficient).  Place in a colander & press with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.  Chop finely and add to eggplant.

Add pork, garlic, ricotta, breadcrumbs, parmesan, salt, pepper & egg to eggplant/spinach mixture & mix very well.  Cover with glad wrap & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Divide mixture into 10 balls & slightly flatten each one.  Roll each patty into breadcrumbs.  Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large non stick frypan & gently fry each patty for 5 minutes on each side.  Add the tomato sauce to the pan & cook for an extra 10 minutes.  Tuck in!

Fast Basic Tomato Sauce

1/3 cup extra virgin oliv eoil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
500g ripe tomatos, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
8 sprigs basil
salt & black pepper

Heat oil in  a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat, add onion & bay leaf, then cover & cook for 5 minutes or until onion is well softened but hardly coloured.  Uncover & add tomato, garlic & herbs.  Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently for 10 minutes or until tomato has collapsed.  Add salt & pepper to taste.  Blend with a bamix to a smooth consistency.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Something wicked to do with leftover egg yolks

I have been keeping my eye out for recipes to use up a heap of egg yolks I have sitting in my freezer due to an uncommonly high amount of meringues being baked here lately.  This recipe for Chocolate Custard Tarts from Bill Granger's Open Kitchen caught my eye.  Oh My!  They are so delicious, the chocolate custard is heavenly & I really had to stop myself from eating it all up out of the pot before it even reached the shells.  Luckily I showed some restraint & made the tarts as it was even better once encased in golden puff pastry.  Bill is such a legend, sorry but I do drool over his books, breakfast king, divine sweets & gorgeous & usually pretty healthy lunches & dinners too, who can resist? 

Anyway I scoffed 2 tarts before they rest were ripped out of my hands and off to Michaels sisters 30th birthday party tonight, I promised a dessert yet in the end couldn't make it as I had to stay home with the boy who has had a bit of a cold (me too) & needed his sleep.  Oh well, secretly I am pleased with a whole night just to myself, no whining, no footy in the background, just silence & the freedom to do whatever I want (without leaving the house of course) for a few hours at least.  So here I am sitting at the computer, glass of champagne in reach, blogging away, doing online crosswords & looking forward to snuggling up with my book, currently reading The Slap & I am loving it.  Just finished cleaning the kitchen & had a gourmet dinner of a corn cob with salt & butter (hey, it's nice not to have to cook for a change!) & feeling very relaxed.

Oh yeah, I found the recipe for the tarts here if you want to give them a go.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Green Mothers Day 2 ways - Cookbook Challenge - Week 26

Wow, I cant believe we are halfway through the Cookbook Challenge, which translates to 6 months worth of it, I dont know where the time has gone & on another note that also means that Josh is turning one in less than a month, what happened to my baby?

I decided to make green week a Mothers Day feast.  For breakfast I made the family, yes that's right, I cooked my own Mothers Day breakfast as I really wouldnt want to see what Michael would do to pancakes, Nigella Lawson's Arabian Pancakes with Orange Flower Syrup & Pistachio's, that very green & beautiful nut.  The book was Forever Summer & with the weather Melbourne has been experiencing of late it does seem that we are sort of having our very own forever summer too, she also suggests serving them as pudding, ie dessert though I thought they were just fine for breakfast.  They were really dreamy, the orange flower syrup was so beautifully thick, sweet & orange scented & went perfectly over the light, fluffy pancakes & the contrast of the chewy nuts on top made the whole dish just perfect.  Josh had a bite or 2 though Chloe who normally loves a pancake like her mum decided she didnt even want to try them & insisted on wheat bix, oh well what could I say but more for us!  She had spent the previous night vomiting all over the place, her bed, our bed, the floor & finally the bucket when we got her close enough so I was hoping that pancakes would cheer her up but sadly she didnt have much of an appetite & pretty much didnt eat all day or night (dinner was also flat out refused even though it consisted of her favourite savoury components, potatoes & meat on the bone).   One thing to note was that my batter didnt seem nearly as thick as she suggested it would have been & there is no way it would serve the 8-10 people that she quotes, I would say max 4!

Arabian Pancakes with Orange-Flower Syrup - Nigella Lawson - Forever Summer

Orange Flower Syrup
225g caster sugar
150ml water
juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon orange flower water

150g plain flour
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 and a quarter teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tspn bicarb of soda
pinch ground cardamon

3 tblspns Greek Yoghurt or labneh
approx 125ml semi-skimmed milk
1 large egg
50ml almond oil (or 50g butter, melted & cooled)

To serve
1-2 handfuls shelled pistachios, chopped

To make the syrup, bring the sugar & water gradually to the boil in a saucepan, swilling the pan to help the sugar dissolve, but on no account stirring it.  Once it's boiling, pour in the lemon juice and then turn down the heat a little & simmer for about 10-15 minutes until it coats the back of a spoon.  Add the orange-flower water and simmer for another 5 minutes, then cool the syrup and chill in the fridge.

To make the pancakes, measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl then spoon the yoghurt into a measuring jug and, stirring with a fork, pour in the milk until you hit the 250ml mark.  If you need to, add a little more than the 125ml specified to do so.  Whisk in the egg & then the almond oil, then stir this jugful of wet ingredients into the bowlful of dry ones.  Almost immediately the mixture will stiffen into a thick, fluffy batter.

Heat a dry griddle & when it is hot add about 2 tablespoons worth of batter for each pancake.  When the pancakes begin to bubble on top, flip them over & cook the other side to a golden brown.  Serve drizzled with syrup (brought back to room temperature if made in advance) & sprinkled with nuts.

Green dish number 2 was to be my Mother's Day dinner & Michael was going to cook it for me so I kept it pretty simple.  A lovely rack of lamb with a mint salsa & some fairly traditional veg, potatoes, pumpkin & peas.  This recipe came from the same book as the pancakes.  Michael did a great job considering he also had Josh hanging off his leg the whole time, the boy was sick & in a new take on things didnt want to know about Mummy, it was all Daddy this weekend I'm afraid so I got to relax for real while the cooking was taking place.  The salsa was fantastic, lively, vibrant & great to liven up the otherwise dull roast vegetables, no gracy needed.  The lamb was tasty & tender though I was a bit disappointed in my butcher who I normally love as the lamb had quite a high fat content & therefore not much of the good tender pink stuff.

Thanks Michael for a bright spot in my otherwise pretty average Mothers Day!!!!

Rack of Lamb with Mint Salsa - Nigella Lawson - Forever Summer

Serves 4-6 so adjust quantities as needed

2 racks of lamb, approx 8 cutlets on each rack

Mint Sauce
30g fresh mint
30g fresh flat leaf parsley
16 cornichons (baby gherkins)
4 teaspoons capers
200ml extra virgin olive oil
4 tspns white wine vinegar, or to taste
pinch caster sugar
ground black pepper
Maldon salt

Preheat oven to 210c.  Make sure the lamb is out of the fridge and well on its way to becoming room temperature.  If still fridge cold when they go in the oven add about 7 minutes extra cooking time.

Destalk the herbs & whiz them in a food processor until they are chopped, then add the cornichons and capers and whiz again.  Pour the oil down the funnel, and then add the vinegar and sugar to taste, season with salt & pepper.

Score the lamb fat, by using a sharp knife to draw diagonal lines, this way & that, about a couple of centimetres apart and using a pastry brush, paint the fat with a coating of the mint sauce, saving the rest to serve with the lamb.  Arrange the racks in an intertwining arch (if you can be bothered!) and put them into a tin & into the oven for about 20 minutes until cooked to your liking.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Warm berries & Honey = Silky Challenge Fail

For this weeks Cookbook Challenge theme of silky I knew right from the very start that I wanted to make my first ever panna cotta.  I flicked through my books & found several recipes & they all seemed to be quite different, some using yoghurt, others coconut cream & then the more traditional (I think, though I am by no means an expert) cream based ones.  I chose a very decadent sounding chocolate panna cotta with berries & honey from Skye Gyngell's My Favourite Ingredients.  I love this book & I love Skye's recipes so I am positive the reason it didnt set properly must have been some fault of mine & not the recipe.  As I said I have never made one before so have no experience in the problems one might encounter.  I let the panna cotta's cool down before I put them in the fridge, they were in for well over the specified 2 hours, the gelatine seemed to dissolve okay so any tips on why one may not set?  They sort of half set & seemed to set more at the bottom (which strangely was the top in the moulds) so if I didnt mix them enough then I would have thought the gelatine would sit at the bottom rather than the top but maybe it is the other way around, am I confusing anyone?

Anyway apart from them not actually setting, the flavour was fantastic, the sauce was heaven as you can imagine, rich chocolate, sweet berries & lovely oozy honey to bring it all together, mmmm, if this had set correctly it would have been an absolute stunner.  Here is the recipe for anyone who is game to try it out & see what happens to theirs, please let me know

Chocolate Panna Cotta with Warm Berries & Honey - Skye Gyngell - My Favourite Ingredients

Serves 4

a little oil, to oil the moulds
200g good quality dark chocolate (minimum 64% cocoa solids)
2 sheets of leaf gelatine
190ml whole milk
250ml double cream
100g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split lengthways

Berries & Honey

180ml honey
200g blackberries (or any berries you fancy)

Lightly oil 4 individual panna cotta moulds or other pudding basins, 200ml capacity each.

Chop the chocolate into small pieces and melt slowly, without stirring, in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water.  Remove the bowl of melted chocolate from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.  Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water to cover for about 5 minutes to soften.

In the meantime, put the milk, cream and sugar in a heavy based pan.  Scrape the seeds form the vanilla pod and add these to the pan with the empty pod.  Place over a medium heat & bring to a gently simmer, stirring once or twice to help dissolve the sugar.  Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve onto the melted chocolate, stirring well to combine.

If necessary, return the chocolate mixture to the pan & reheat gently - it needs to be very hot but not quite boiling.  ake off the heat.  Squeeze the gelatine to remove excess water & add to the hot cream, stirring to dissolve.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a jug, then pour into the prepared moulds.  Allow to cool completely, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

For the berries, warm the honey in a small saucepan.  Add 2/3 of the berries & cook gently until they have begun to bleed into the warm honey.  Remove from the heat and stir through the remaining berries.

To serve, quickly dip the base of each mould into hot water to loosen the base & the sides, then run a small sharp knife around the top & invert onto a plate.  Spoon the warm berries over the panna cotta & serve immediately with extra cream on the side if desired.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Happy Birthday Michael

Sunday was Michaels birthday & for a change I had him all to myself for the day.  Unfortunately The Mighty Pies were playing in the afternoon & the family wanted to go to the game so we had the family celebrations on Saturday, I was actually pleased we got to have a nice family day alone for something different. 

To start with we walked down nice & early to Hellenic Republic for breakfast, it's nice & quiet at opening (9am) with most people in the area preferring to sleep in & have a later start to the day, for us, 9am is a late breakfast.  Chloe & Josh were well behaved & shared some toast between them, Chloe also stole some of my eggs & Michaels amazing thick cut bacon.  It was a nice breakfast though I'm sure they have shortened the menu & my spanakopita & poached eggs wasn't as good as the first time I had it back closer to the date they opened.  Still it was great to be out & I love going for a nice early morning walk.  Now that Josh is getting a bit easier to be out with, ie we can feed him off a menu instead of having to drag along baby food, we will have to start heading out a lot more like in the good old days.

After a relaxing day for Michael, I decided to have a bit of a pizza party, boys love pizza & Michael is no exception.  I find them really simple to make at home & actually prefer it to the home delivered variety no matter what the brand/shop it is coming from. 

I used the base recipe from Jamie Oliver's Italy & made 3 different pizza toppings, margaritas with fresh basil from the garden, and a couple of his suggested toppings, potatoes, mozzarella, rosemary & tomatoes and for the last, egg, prosciutto, artichokes, olives, mozzarella, tomato sauce & basil.  I cut my potatoes a bit thick as I didnt allow enough time for them to cool & I think I overcooked them a bit, so they didnt crisp up at all though the flavours were still fantastic.  The margarita was really very good, it's usually my favourite , though this time the prosciutto won out, a fantastic marriage of flavours.  Luckily I made heaps so guess whats on for dinner tonight & lunch too, no doubt I will be sick of pizza very soon!

To finish off the night I made some apples stuffed with dates, sultanas, pine nuts, honey, cream, vanilla, cinnamon & lemon zest, they were then baked with some apple juice & served with the juice boiled down to a syrup.  I wanted to keep things relatively simple after all the pizza & we really didnt need any more cake after Saturdays celebrations (I made an orange torte with chocolate ganache).  Nice though really, really sweet so lots of yoghurt on the side was needed to cut trough the richness. 

My birthday is later this week, more celebrations & of course more food, look out for some sensational chocolate that I will make for this weeks challenge as well as for me!