Tuesday, 30 December 2008

First experimentation with the new pasta machine - Foie Gras Ravioli with Pumpkin Veloute

Foie gras is a very traditional thing to eat at Christmas time in France and (at least southern) Switzerland. Last year I made tiny little foie gras and red onion tartlets (which I completely failed to photograph, how bad am I?) and this year I thought I would put my new pasta making machine to work and make foie gras ravioli.

I started with a basic egg pasta dough:

300g fine white flour
3 eggs

Place the flour in a heap on the work bench, and make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the centre and then using your fingertips work the flour into the eggs. This is the really fun messy bit. Once incorporated, knead the dough, if necessary adding just a drop of water or two to get a good workable consistency. How long to knead? Till the dough stops feeling sort of grainy and starts feeling smooth. Wrap up in plastic wrap and let sit for at least half an hour.

Break the dough into two pieces (leaving one wrapped up) and set your pasta machine to the widest aperture. flatten the ball of dough out a bit so it can fit through and feed it through by cranking the handle on the machine. Once fed through, fold it in half and feed it through again. If the dough kind of catches on the rollers and has a rough knobbly surface, smooth just a little flour on to the dough before folding and feed through again. Do this 6 or 7 times... I promise you will know when it is done as your pasta dough will be smooth and silky.

Then take the machine in a step and feed the pasta through again. In another notch and feed again... You might find you now have an unmanageably large length of dough; if so, cut it in half and put one half under a damp clean dishcloth while you deal with the other half. Keep taking the machine in a notch and feeding the pasta through until you have the finest sheet you can get. Don't worry if the edges are not perfect!

Stage 2: the Ravioli
1 bloc du foie gras (about 200g)
1 batch egg pasta dough

If you are making square or triangular ravioli you can simply place the sheet on the bench, brush it with water, put your ingredients on top, lay another sheet on top of that, and then press together and cut out the ravioli. In my case I wanted to make something a little more festive, so I cut out heart shapes. Then I (and my handsome assistant) brushed the edges of one heart with water and then placed pieces of bloc du foie gras on the pastry, leaving a good edge of pastry. We then placed another heart of pasta on top and pinched around the edges firmly.

Sprinkle the hearts with flour to stop them sticking together then spread out on a tray and pop them in the freezer. Once frozen you can put them into a ziplock bag and keep them that way until ready to use.

Stage 3: Pumpkin Veloute

1 medium onion, finely diced
1 butternut pumpkin (aka squash)
1 tsp caster sugar
drizzle of olive oil
1 litre of chicken stock.

In a large pan, soften the onion in the oil until translucent. Add the cubed pumpkin and sprinkle with the caster sugar. Stir the cubed pumpkin over medium heat until the pumpkin is browned and the sugar has caramelised. Pour over the chicken stock and raise the heat to bring to the boil. Simmer until the pumpkin has cooked completely then put through a ricer, after which you can use a stick blender to blend to a velvety smooth veloute.

To complete the dish:

Heat the veloute until warmed. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Once it has reached boiling point, add the ravioli (still frozen). Cook for just a few minutes till al dente. Put out serving plates, add some of the veloute and then lay the ravioli on top in a decorative fashion. Grate a little nutmeg on top.
Photo courtesy of Ed.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

My new toy

Sorry its taken so long to post up the answer to my question of 7 December... what is this?

The answer is that I finally got my new pasta making machine. Best of all it was free - I finally got enough loyalty points from one of my local supermarket chains to get it.

Isn't it beautiful? Gleaming and solid and just begging to be used.

...I have this idea for christmas dinner. I will let you know how it goes.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Here at last, I am delighted to announce that my friend Cynthia's book "My Caribbean Cookbook" is now available for pre-ordering from AKD Press.

Cynthia is one of my fellow foodbloggers, although far more established and talented than I! Her lovely foodblog has delectable recipes accompanied with delightful stories that really take you with her to her Caribbean home.

I highly recommend her blog, and think that the promise of her new cookbook would be a fabulous Christmas gift for anyone you know who is a cooking fan.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Beef in Beer

On my weekend jaunt across the border I bought myself some beef. I had the idea that I would make beef bourguignon from my new recipe book "The Complete Robuchon". Nice simple meal, beef, burgundy, onions. Nope. 19 ingredients (mind you that is including spices). Cooking time, 2 and a half hours plus 25 minutes for the onions, 5 minutes for the lardons and 10 minutes for the mushrooms. 5 pots or pans. 5!!!!

As we say in Australia "bugger that for a game of soldiers".

Beef in beer instead. 7 ingredients. 1 frypan, 1 crockpot - much better!

900g diced beef
3 medium sized onions, sliced
3 large carrots chopped up
500g new potatoes (cut larger ones in half)
Olive oil
2 large cans of beer (or one bottle)
2 beef stock cubes

Chop the carrots and cut in half the bigger of the potatoes. Put in the crock pot/casserole.

Heat up a fry pan with a little oil, and brown the meat in batches and add to the crock pot. Cook the sliced onions in the pan till softened and a little browned. Pour some of the beer into the pan to lift the delicious browned bits from the pan. Pour into the crockpot and add the rest of the beer and the stock cubes. If using an electric crock pot, cook for 8 hours on low. If using a pot on the stove, simmer gently for 2 hours.

How easy is that? Ok so it takes a while to cook, but effort? Almost zero and the taste... delish!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

400 anzac bikkies later

A fun and busy weekend!

Friday night was a work function (which I didn't have to cater), and on Saturday morning I rented a car and drove off in search of fabric and food. Geneva is only a matter of 10 minutes away from France, but sometimes it is a world away in what you can and cannot find in supermarkets.

For example, brown sugar can't be found for love nor money in Geneva, but cross that wee border and there it is, in every supermarket. Golden syrup, smoked chicken and even Vegemite can be found on the other side of the air strip. (In one direction to get to France from Geneva you drive under the airplane landing strip)

The other grand difference is the cost of things, especially meat. Lamb can be found for about 6 euro a kilo, (about 9 Swiss francs) where in Geneva it is up to 40 francs a kilo! There are limits on how much you can bring across of course, but still, its a fair old difference eh?

Saturday evening I met with friends in a cafe for a burger and a chat. This was followed by a quiet drink (but we couldn't bear the bar for long because of the cigarette smoke... when oh when are the Swiss going to join the 21st century?) then on to a night club for a bit of dancing.

In the morning, one of my friends came over and we headed back over the border again to visit the Divonne markets. Churros, cheese, onions, tapenade all found irresistable.. some for me some for my friend.

Back home and into the kitchen to finish cooking 400 anzac biscuits (cookies for my US readers). All done by 7pm. (whew!)

Now what to have for dinner? Time too cook up those lovely fresh French onions into French Onion Soup. Mmmmmm...

So as I type, the onions, which have been softened in butter are now caramelising. As soon as there is enough of the lovely golden edges for my taste, I will sprinkle flour onto it, to start a roux. Once that has been cooked for a little while (vital to cook it or you end up with a grainy floury taste to your soup) I will add my beef stock. The roux soaks up the butter, preventing an oil slick on top of the soup and making it thick and rich. Once brought to the boil, I add a final splash of brandy and voila, ready to eat - a perfect Sunday evening dinner. There is a slightly more exact recipe earlier in my foodblog if you want it. Oh, and the anzac biscuit recipe too!

What is this?

Stay tuned and all will be revealed

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Have you missed me?

Sorry, I have been away in Florence and Lisbon... But I promise I ate and drank and thought of you!
No recipes to share today, but two photographs from Cafe Florian, which makes fantastically thick, rich hot chocolates.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Lemon iced biscuits

I made a batch of these pretty iced biscuits as a birthday gift for a dear friend. They were sweet, delicious and incredibly cute.

200g butter
1 tsp vanilla paste
1 egg
1 1/2 cups of plain flour
1 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup self raising flour

Method 1. Put all the ingredients into your food processor. Pulse until combined. Wrap ball of dough in plastic wrap and put in the fridge to rest for an hour.

Method 2. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla and egg until pale. Gradually add the flour until combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and put in fridge to rest for half an hour.

Roll out to 5mm and cut out circles. Because this recipe has a raising agent in it, it isn't really suitable for shaped biscuits. Another easy option is to form the dough into cylinders and roll in plastic wrap,twisting the ends. Cool for an hour and a half, remove from the oven and then slice to make rounds.

Bake in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes on the tray and then move to wire racks.

Ice with lemon icing (add lemon juice drop by drop to icing sugar until you have a spreadable paste). Sprinkle with decorations while the icing is still wet.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Handful soup

Dinner tonight was a super quick and easy soup. I am dubbing it "handful soup" because it is assembled from handfuls of ingredients; no measurements, no fuss.

1 handful of dried mushrooms
1 handful of frozen peas
1 handful of snow peas torn in to pieces
1 handful of rice stick noodles
1 mushroom (or beef will do) stock cube
about 2 cups of water
1/2 a star anise

In a saucepan, bring the water to the boil. Add the dried mushrooms and star anise and simmer for about 15 minutes until the mushrooms are rehydrated and tender. Add the stock cube, rice stick, frozen peas and bring back to the boil.

After about 3 minutes (when the rice stick has softened), add the snow peas and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for a minute, and serve. Easy eh?

The star anise is the real secret to making this soup fragrant and irresistibly delicious.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Quick review: the Village Idiot

A short trip to Brussels and my favourite restaurant there "L'Idiot du Village". Well, to be truthful I have only been to a handful of restaurants in Brussels, but the list does include a Michelin starred restaurant and a very famous Japanese fusion restaurant, and believe me, l'Idiot is by far the best.

I was meeting up with friends from Australia, and just had to take them there.

The real star was the main course shared between my friend and I, pheasant with roasted apples and chestnuts. Apparently it was the first night of the season that this dish was being served, and as I do love eaten food when it is at its best, in season, how could I say no?

The jus was delicious, the meat absolutely tender and the apples caramelised and sweet. After this, I was too full to be able to even contemplate dessert. Next time perhaps!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Impromptu fig conserve

With figs in season as they are, I just had to buy some more didn't I? I had this idea in mind for tomorrow night's dinner, but tonight, the figs were looking a bit peaky... not to be left for tomorrow night. Hmmm... what do I do with them then? I know, I will make jam!

The challenge is that I only had 6 figs, not the kilo or so that most recipes seem to demand. So I just had to invent something, and here it is.

6 figs
1 cup jam sugar*
1/2 cup grand marnier
1 star anise
1 tsp lemon juice

In a small saucepan, combine the chopped figs, jelly sugar, lemon juice and grand marnier. Sit for an hour to soak.

Start the stove and bring the mixture to a gentle bubble. Add the star anise. Cook for 15 minutes stirring regularly. Remove the star anise and then continue to cook for another 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly, and crushing with a potato masher, to break up the bigger pieces. Once thickened to "soft ball" stage, pour into sterilised glass jar. Makes 1 x 500g jar of jam.

*jam sugar is a sugar which includes pectin

The figs starting to break down into delicious jam..

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Sweet potato, pumpkin & feta pizza

Long gone are the days of pizza having to have tomatoes and mozzarella.

Nowadays you can get pretty much anything on a pizza, for example, tandoori chicken & thai green curry.

You can even buy strange dessert pizzas. I am all for pushing the envelope in cooking, so I am pretty open minded about what should or should not go on a pizza.

That said, there are some things that should simply not go there... along with deep fried mars bar and deep fried cupcakes, and I am thinking that rocky road pizzas are one of those things.

But this delicious pizza is all good. The combination of the sweetness of the pumpkin and sweet potato and saltiness of feta create a perfect partnership joined with the textural joys of the softness of the vegetables and crispness of the crust.

1 small sweet potato (around 200g)
1 wedge of pumpkin (around 200g)
1 onion
50g feta
pizza dough

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.

Peel and dice the pumpkin, sweet potato and onion. Pan fry with a little olive oil on a relatively low heat until the onion has gone transparent and the vegetables have softened.

Spread the mixture onto the pizza dough and crumble feta on top. Bake for 20 minutes until the crust has crisped and the cheese has browned.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Marmalade Cupcakes

There is a bit of a tale to this recipe. A friend of mine broke her leg. Her mum, being the caring sharing type, decided she couldn't stay in Australia with her daughter suffering a broken leg in Switzerland, so she flew across.

And what does a worrying mum do with herself during the day when her daughter is stuck on the couch? She makes marmalade of course! So how does this connect to me and marmalade cupcakes? Well my friend moved back to Australia and kindly donated to me the unused contents of her cupboards - including a lovely jar of marmalade.

Inspired to bake one day, I created these delicious cupcakes; only wish my friend was here to try one.
  • 125 butter
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup orange marmalade
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. If, unlike me, you have a muffin tin, put the paper cases into it, otherwise, just lay them out on a tray.

In your mixer, beat the butter and caster sugar until light fluffy. One by one, add the eggs, beating well between additions. While the mixer is still going, add the marmalade.

In another bowl, combine the flour, bicarb, salt and baking powder.

Now, alternating between the milk and the flour mixture, add to the mixer, until combined (but don't overbeat).

Fill the paper cups with the mixture and then bake for around 20 minutes until risen and golden.

The special joy of these cupcakes is that the marmalade makes little pockets of marmalade toffee, which are just delicious. I topped them with a simple icing made of marmalade, icing sugar and cream cheese but actually I loved them just as they were. I took them to work and they were inhaled with gusto.

This recipe made about 2 dozen cupcakes

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A compound Salad

A few months ago I helped cater a renaissance feast for 138 people. I have realised that I have neglected to share with you my recipes! How terrible am I?

People often ask me, when I tell them that I cook medieval and renaissance food "what did people eat apart from big joints of roasted meat?". Well, here is a wickedly lavish salad that proves that there was SO much more to the renaissance palate than lumps of flesh!

Compound Sallet [The English Hous-wife, 1615]:

To compound an excellet Sallet, and which indeed is usuall at great Feasts, and upon Princes Tables, take a good quantity of blancht Almonds, and with your shredding knife cut them grossly. Then take as many Raisins of the Sun clean washt, and the stones pickt out, as many Figs shred like the Almonds, as many Capers, twice so many Olives,and as many Currants as of all the rest, clean washt, a good handfull of the small tender leaves of red Sage and Spinage: mixe all these well together with good store of Sugar, and lay them in the bottom of a great dish. Then put unto them Vineger and Oyl, and scrape more Suger over all: then take Oranges and Lemmons, and paring away the outward pilles cut them into thinne slices.Then with those slices cover the Sallet all over. Then over those Red leaves lay other course of old Olives, and the slices of well pickled Cucumbers, together with the very inward heart of Cabbage lettice cut into slices. Then adorn the sides of the dish, and the top of the Sallet with more slices of Lemons and Oranges, and so serve it up.

An actual recipe with quantities isn't really necessary with this dish; as you can see, it is basically a great mixture of different ingredients.

  • Almonds
  • Sultanas (raisins)
  • Figs
  • Capers
  • Olives
  • Red Sage
  • Currants
  • Baby Spinach leaves
  • Pickled cucumbers
  • Sugar
  • Vinegar
  • Oil
  • Cabbage
  • Lemon and Orange slices (for my salad I actually used pickled lemon slices)
I wonder if this salad counts as a recovered recipe? Recovered Recipes is hosting a fun foodcomp, challenging people to scan in an old recipe card and make the dish. This certainly is an old recipe eh?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Morroccan lamb tartlets

This delicious canape is again quite simple (but then again, ultimately most cooking is!) and all of the parts can be prepared in the days before your event, allowing you to simply assemble on the night.

There are three parts to this recipe
  1. Cases
  2. Lamb
  3. Hommous
1. Let's start with the cases. Buy a loaf of sliced white bread. Lay slices out on a board, and roll them with a rolling pin to flatten them. Using a cookie cutter (in this case I used a star), cut out shapes from the bread. A cookie cutter that will allow you to get four pieces out of one slice of bread will make bite sized canapes. Brush the shapes with melted butter, and push into the holes of mini muffin tins. Bake at 180 degrees until crisp and golden.

Cool and keep in an airtight container - these will easily keep for up to 4 days (and actually as I write I am munching on a few left over cases that are now a week old and still crisp and yummy).

2. Time for the Lamb.

I rubbed lamb fillets with Ras el Hanout (A north African spice mixture containing all sorts of things, but typically cardamon, cloves, cinnamon, chili, cumin, coriander, pepper and turmeric) and put them in a container in the fridge overnight in the fridge to marinate. The next day I pan fried the lamb fillet - you want the lamb to be nicely browned on the outside but still slightly pink and juicy on the inside. As you cook it, you can feel when you press on it, the meat getting firmer as it cooks.

Once cool, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Leave as whole fillets until you are just about to assemble the canape.

3. Hommous

Do have a try at making your own hommous - Rosa at Rosa's Yummy Yums has a great recipe or you can buy some but make sure it is a good quality fresh hommous.

So now you have all three parts, its time to serve these up! Slice the lamb fillet very thinly on the diagonal. Pipe or spoon some hommous into the bread cup and arrange a slice of lamb on top, and perhaps garnish with a little fresh coriander. Simple, and totally delicious!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Dinner for one... figs three ways

Tonight is the least glamorous night of the month for me: my fortnightly access to the laundry in the basement. A night of tedium waiting for one load to finish before loading up the next. The plus is that it is a night that I get to spend at home alone, in my own space, which always inspires me to cook! As my dear friend Cate calls it, it's "darling self" time.

A quick meander around the shop brought me my inspiration for the night. It's the season of figs... those gorgeous plump purple fruits with their sensuous gem-toned flesh. There is something incredibly sexy about the look, the texture and the taste of this glorious fruit. I decided to spoil myself for dinner alone tonight... figs three ways.

Firstly, a whole fig split and roasted slowly until tender and juicy, then gorgonzola tucked into it, going soft and melding with the sweet juices of the fruit. Drizzled with honey or just as it is... fabulous.

Melted and soft to be picked up and eaten with the fingers, just to give an excuse to lick the lush nectar up.. or spread over bread still warm from the oven.

Second, cut up into chunky jewells and wrapped in jambon cru and slow roasted until the jambon starts to crisp up and a glorious mingling of ham and fig juice dribbles out from underneath. Served with a balsamic vinegar reduction, this is simply irresistable.

I baked these on a silicone sheet, and between you and I, when the liqueur cooled, I licked it all up!

Then finally time for dessert... Simple and sweet... a fig sliced in quarters, cooked with port and honey and served with a dollop of creamy rich greek yoghurt.

Utterly content with dinner alone.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Quick and pretty canape

I was hired to cater a small reception for 40 people. A nice simple function of 5 different dishes.

Dish number one: Cherry tomato, basil and baby mozzarella skewers.

It doesn't get much simpler than this for a canape! I marinated the mozzarella in pesto and then skewered them. The hardest part was figuring out how to present them!

Monday, 8 September 2008

Eating with the Vikings

One of the more fun mini-chain restaurants in Finland is Restaurant Harald. The one we went to was in Turku. Decorated up on a Viking theme, the waitresses wear Viking gear, and you can order dishes served up on shields or spitted on swords. Terry and I thought it might be fun to go to the one we saw in Tampere, but had our dinner in the tower instead, so when we got to Turku and found another "Harald", we couldn't resist!

The buffet table, or is it the bar?

For entree, I was seduced by the idea of moose salami, lingonberries and sprucetip syrup, so my choice was:

Game delicacies of Finland
Smoked reindeer sausage, delicious moose salami, grilled beef breast, smoked
garlic, red onion marmalade, lingonberries with spruce tip syrup, smoked almonds,
Rieska (soft flatbread), carrot bread, all served on a slab of slate.

My dinner partner didn't want an entree, but I knew he would 'throw himself on the grenade' and eat some of mine, and indeed he did.

Then for the main course I chose:

Sausage Pan
Wild boar sausage, reindeer sausage, pheasant meatballs, mustard seed sauce,
smoky cheese potatoes, creamed beetroot.

A hearty dish, this was probably a poor choice for me, as it was far more than I could possibly eat, but I really was in the mood for a sausage, and so even just having a mouthful of each was a pleasure. Terry helped out again as he still had room after his:

Blacksmiths Wild Duck
Wild duck breast, malt sauce, smoky cheese potatoes, marinated beans,
creamed beetroot, port wine marinated nuts, red onion marmalade.

I had a teeny taste of the duck which was pleasant, though not amazing by any means.

At this point in time, I was feeling pretty full, but Terry was rather keen on the idea of dessert, and we decided we really had to have something served on a shield... how could we possibly resist this indulgent platter?

Asgot the Red's Ending Shield
Caramel chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake, apple sorbet, Viking style pancakes,
Hulda’s berry dessert, blackberry compote, port wine marinated nuts,
carrot compote.

The caramel icecream was great as was the apple sorbet. The viking pancake was pretty ordinary but much better with the berries on top, and the chocolate cake was absolutely fantastic and although I was groaningly full I wouldn't let Terry have a crumb of my share!

I thought that Restaurant Harald was fun: the atmosphere and silly stories on the menus are very amusing, and if you are in Turku, Tampere or Kuopio, go on... try it... definitely worth 1 visit.

The entry to Harald

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

A little bit of silliness - deconstructed potato salad

I have canapes on my mind at the moment because next week I am catering a small cocktail reception for 40 people. Anyway, I had this thought about raclette potatoes. If you aren't familiar with raclette potatoes, they are golden, buttery and totally delicious. Boiled, they taste like they have been soaked in melted butter. They also keep their shape really well when cooked, which makes them lousy for irish stew but excellent for samosas and, I theorise, for cocktail food.

My thought was to do a sort of deconstructed potato salad... potatoes sliced skewered and layered with mustard mayonnaise. But this alone, while tasty, would be texturally dull as dishwater, and equally boring to the eye.

So what to do? How about a sliver of cucumber, to add some colour and texture... not bad, not bad at all.

Completely coincidentally, tonight's little invention fits into the Recipe Remix food challenge - to rethink a traditional summer "cookout" food. Now to be truthful I am not entirely sure what a cookout is (I am thinking it is what we Aussies call a "barbie") but potato salad is one of the dishes listed as a dish to be played with, so this becomes my little contribution to the fun!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Savoury pullapart bread

I have been having a bit of a bread baking frenzy. It started after the fete de Geneve, when a friend gave me a big bag of rehydrated dried mushrooms. I couldn't use them all so I froze it in bags. I also made a batch of bread dough for a dinner, which completely failed to rise. I am a persistent sort of girl though, so I put the bread dough in the fridge, and the next morning, when I looked in the fridge there was risen dough! Hmmm... what to do with it? I took it to work and at morning tea time, used some of the mushroom mix to make a loaf of cheese and mushroom pull apart bread. My colleagues devoured it and that just got me started...

Next thing I know, I am making cinnamon scrolls, fruit bread, and today, bacon onion and cheese pull apart bread.

Pull apart bread is great fun both to make and eat. Kneading bread is always satisfying, as is seeing the wonderful dough double, and then the pleasure of forming the lovely savoury bites. The scent of baking bread fills my apartment and I am only surprised that my neighbours haven't been knocking on the door demanding a bite!

This recipe is pretty flexible and you can put whatever filling inspires you into the centre, sweet or savoury.

Pull apart bread

1 package instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
500g flour
1 cup warm milk
1 large egg
8 tablespoons melted butter or oil

1 onion finely chopped
150g bacon, finely chopped
200g cheese grated

Method 1
Combine the dry ingredients. In another bowl put all the liquid ingredients, egg, milk & oil. Add a cup of the dry ingredients and stir well. Gradually add the other dry ingredients until you get a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured work surface for about 6 minutes until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch.

Method 2
Place dry ingredients in bowl of electric mixer (not food processor). Use the mixing blade and add the wet ingredients. Once combined, change to dough hooks and knead for 4-6 minutes, until the dough is smooth and springy to the touch.

Oil a large bowl. Put the dough into the bowl and then turn it over so that the surface is oiled. Cover with plastic wrap. Place somewhere warmish (funnily enough, beside my laptop seems to work well for me, so that the warm air from the fan circulates around it) for about an hour and a half until the dough doubles in size.

Fry the onion gently it starts going transparent, then add the bacon. Fry just for a minute. Allow to cool while you grate the cheese.

Once the dough has risen, deflate and then grab pinches of dough (about the size of a walnut. Form into a ball, then flatten it out into a disk. Put a little of the onion and bacon and grated cheese onto the centre of the disk and then pinch it closed to make a little ball. Layer into a lightly oiled loaf tin.

Allow to rise about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the bread has risen, bake for about 30 minutes until the bread is a dark golden brown and when turned out of the tin the bottom of the loaf sound hollow when tapped.

Eat, ideally while still warm!

Friday, 29 August 2008

Finland food adventures

As part of my adventures in Finland, the evening after the wedding (my reason for being in Finland) in Tampere we headed up to the tower "Nasinneula" for dinner. We had been told that this was supposed to be one of the best restaurants in Finland, but knew nothing more so arrived with an open mind.

The entry to the tower was very cool, with a projected fishpond on the floor that rippled when you walked through it. Sadly I forgot my camera and consquently have no photos, which is a huge pity, as both the view from the tower and the food were more than a little decorative. On the whole, revolving restaurants are not the best places to eat because the food usually suffers from laziness as the owners rely on the view to earn the bucks, but Nasinneula is a pleasant exception.

I started with an aperitif which used a seabuckthorn berry liqueur and ginger ale.

Entree was Reindeer pastrami with asparagus topped with a poached quail egg and tomato salsa. I thought all the separate ingredients were lovely but the tomato salsa overpowered the pastrami a bit.

Then we were served with a small morel soup, which was delicate, creamy and scrumptious (although not as good as my perfected mushroom soup).

This was followed by a trio of fish dishes: A tartare of baltic salmon (good but unexciting), a ballantyne of perch - this was beautifully presented, topped with a tiny tuile and exquisitely fine onion and caviar. The third fish was grilled white fish, which I think was the most "fishy" fish I have ever eaten; neither I nor my partner were very taken with the white fish.

The main course was Reindeer fillet with a dark lingonberry sauce, celeriac & vanilla mash and served with a jerusalem artichoke and potato cake. The reindeer was really very good (reminded me very much of kangaroo) and the combination of celeriac and vanilla in a savoury dish was fascinating and delicious.

We then had two cheeses: Heelmar and Valdemar cheeses served with lingonberry honey.

Dessert was Seabuckthorn & white chocolate cake with seabuckthorn sorbet. I was a big fan of this dessert, but my partner was less enthusiastic about the astringent taste but I really enjoyed the contrast between that astringency and the creamy white chocolate.

Altogether a very good meal at a restaurant I would recommend. 62 euro per head. If you would like to see someone elses photos and read their thoughts on this restaurant, you can find a review at "Only slightly bent".

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Wordle... a word image of my blog

How cool is Wordle?
Wordle generates "word clouds" giving greater prominence to words that appear more often in your site. It is only working off my latest posts, but I would be very curious to see what it would come up if it could view my whole site.

Adventurous eater food meme

  1. Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
  2. Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
  3. Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. (I will italic, as I don't have cross out ability)
  4. Optional extra: Post a comment here at http://www.verygoodtaste.co.uk/ linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred

  1. Venison
  2. Nettle tea
  3. Huevos rancheros
  4. Steak tartare
  5. Crocodile
  6. Black pudding
  7. Cheese fondue
  8. Carp
  9. Borscht
  10. Baba ghanoush
  11. Calamari
  12. Pho
  13. PB&J sandwich
  14. Aloo gobi
  15. Hot dog from a street cart
  16. Epoisses (as in the cheese?)
  17. Black truffle
  18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
  19. Steamed pork buns
  20. Pistachio ice cream
  21. Heirloom tomatoes
  22. Fresh wild berries
  23. Foie gras (I will go to hell for it, but well.. its worth it - the person who said nothing tastes as good as thin feels" never ate foie gras on fresh paillasse read)
  24. Rice and beans
  25. Brawn, or head cheese
  26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
  27. Dulce de leche
  28. Oysters (smoked only - my seafood sensitivity forbids it any other form)
  29. Baklava
  30. Bagna cauda
  31. Wasabi peas
  32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (me and clams could get ugly)
  33. Salted lassi
  34. Sauerkraut
  35. Root beer float (lime spider yes, but root beer tastes like dettol smells to me)
  36. Cognac with a fat cigar
  37. Clotted cream tea
  38. Vodka jelly
  39. Gumbo
  40. Oxtail
  41. Curried goat
  42. Whole insects (fried, roasted and raw)
  43. Phaal
  44. Goat’s milk
  45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more (still didn't like it)
  46. Fugu
  47. Chicken tikka masala
  48. Eel
  49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (SO overrated)
  50. Sea urchin
  51. Prickly pear
  52. Umeboshi
  53. Abalone
  54. Paneer
  55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
  56. Spaetzle
  57. Dirty gin martini
  58. Ber above 8% ABV
  59. Poutine
  60. Carob chips
  61. S’mores
  62. Sweetbreads
  63. Kaolin
  64. currywurst
  65. Durian
  66. Frogs’ legs
  67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
  68. Haggis
  69. Fried plantain
  70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
  71. Gazpacho
  72. Caviar and blini
  73. Loche asinthe
  74. gjetost or brunost
  75. Roadkill
  76. Baijiu
  77. Hostess Fruit Pie (what is it? Is it just a premade fruit pie?)
  78. Snail (land and sea)
  79. Lapsang souchong
  80. Bellini
  81. Tom yum
  82. Eggs Benedict
  83. Pocky
  84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant (no, but a) am working on it and b) ave managed a 1 star)
  85. Kobe beef
  86. Hare
  87. Goulash
  88. Flowers
  89. Horse
  90. Criollo chocolate
  91. Spam
  92. Soft shelled crab
  93. Rose harissa
  94. Catfish
  95. Mole poblano
  96. Bagel and lox
  97. Lobster Thermidor
  98. Polenta
  99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee (dont drink coffee)
  100. Snake

Not bad. Out of 100 things I am not missing many that I can safely eat. Hmmm... now what would I have on my personal food list that everyone should try would be:

  1. Emu
  2. Kangaroo
  3. Blue cheese
  4. Parma ham
  5. Spanish ham
  6. english muffins
  7. crumpets
  8. corn on the cob (I know it isn't unusual but it IS heavenly and everyone should try it)
  9. Allens jelly snakes
  10. Basel leckerli

I am sure I could think of more, but tell me... what would you add?

Taking to the fields...

Taking food art to a new level, check out this rice field art.

Thursday, 7 August 2008


So I am sitting eating my salad at lunchtime surfing some foodblogs (as you do) when I started yelping out loud with laughter. Believe me, you just have to go and have a look at this blog: cakewrecks.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Smoked Trout Pate

While I wanted to cook lots of things for my foodie colleagues' departures, I was a bit limited in time... so I added this simple pate to the menu to provide a savoury alternative to the cakes on offer.

Smoked trout pate is wonderfully easy to make, and is a guaranteed winner at any party (or in this case work function). Best made the night before, so that the lovely smokey flavour of the trout can permeate the pate.

200g cream cheese
250g smoked trout fillets
2 tablespoons lemon juice
50g melted butter

Put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse till well combined - but don't over blend, as you want to keep some texture.

Put into your serving dishes and cover with plastic wrap and keep in the fridge overnight. Serve with a small serving knife with toasts or baguette.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Vegan Coconut Cake

Two of my colleagues are leaving Geneva for the flatter climes of Australia. One of them is, like me, a foodie, so I just had to cook something for their farewell morning tea.

First up... a vegan cake. My friend James is a vegan and every time we have a morning or afternoon tea he is left holding his cup of coffee unable to eat any of the goodies. So I decided that this time around he would not be left cakeless. I wanted to make something that wasn't "typical" vegan food, all wholemeal flours soy and treacle, but something light, fluffy, properly cake-like. So I baked this very yummy coconut cake, only to get to work to discover that James is off this week on holidays. How frustrating! Still, my other colleagues wolfed it down so it was still a success story.

Coconut Cake

3 cups of self raising flour
2 cups caster sugar
1 c dessicated coconut
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups coconut milk
2/3rds of a cup of vegetable oil (something without a strong flavour)
1 tsp vanilla
2 tspns vinegar

Start by putting your oven on to heat up to 180 degrees. Grease and sprinkle a ring tin with flour (I in fact use baker's grease - recipe to come).

In a your mixer combine the flour, dessicated coconut, sugar and salt. Stir in the coconut milk and oil and mix until you get a smooth batter. Just before pouring into the cake tin, stir in the vinegar - this step seems to be the key to getting a lovely light cake with a soft texture and golden crust.

Bake around 1 hour 15 until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes away clean. Don't open the oven to test it until it has been in at least 25 minutes or it will sink! Cool briefly in the pan then turn onto a cooling rack. This cake is beautifully moist and needs no icing.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Simple indulgence - Vanilla Bean Icecream

This gloriously simple icecream can't be beaten. All the complicated fancy icecreams out there, the cookie cream confections and english toffees are just blown out of the water. Creamy, rich, pure... sublime.

4 egg yolks
100g caster sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup cream (double cream)
The seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Heat the milk just to the boiling point, remove from the heat. Beat the eggs and sugar together and while beating the milk continuously, add the egg mixture to the milk. Return to the stove and heat gently while stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Cool completely and stir in the cream and vanilla. Pour into your icecream machine and churn/freeze for 20-30 minutes.

Serve au naturale or with fresh fruit or a hot fruit tart - I made this icecream when a friend came over to dinner and served it with a nectarine tart that I invented on the spot.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Coquelet with couscous and mushroom stuffing

I stumbled across a food event somewhere, which was a sort of paddock to plate affair. Cook up your dish, but show the before and after shots.

I found a little coquelet for sale at the markets, just the right size for dinner for one (well actually it made two dinners for one) being just 500g. As a single woman living alone, its not often I get to have a roast, so I snapped this up. I just adore my chickens stuffed (in some countries its called "dressed" which is up there with scones being called "biscuits" for weird descriptions) and it is something I miss very much living in Europe where beasts are roasted a naturale. But I didn't have any bread in the house, so what do I stuff the bird with? Ahah! Couscous... why not!?

So in fact, as I have lost where the paddock to plate food event is happening, this actually became an entry in "Culinarty"'s first foodblog event for an original recipe. Mind you, I could enter just about every dish I cook into this one, as I tend to be a bit of an original when it comes to cooking!

I am afraid I can't offer much in the way of guidance on quantities, as I did it all by eye. The stuffing was pretty straightforward though: make up a half cup of couscous with hot stock, some oregano and some broken up dried mushrooms (bolets and shitakes in this case). Allow to cool and mix in an egg. Stuff inside your bird, then roast. I actually had some extra left of the stuffing and put it into a butterfly cake mould to make this terribly cute stuffing extra.

I served the cooked coquelet with snow peas and potatoes au gratin and discovered that no matter how I arranged things, this meal refused to photograph beautifully. Still, it tasted great, and I guess that is what counts! The couscous stuffing was really very good - I had wondered whether the texture would be odd, but it was tasty and texturally interesting but not too interesting, if you know what I mean.

I decided too to go on to smugly celebrate my all round inventiveness and have added a label to the recipes I put up on the web, marking those which are my own original inventions. So you can go to the list of keywords and choose "Original" to make a collection of Kiriel originals.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Coconut Apricot Slice

Slices seem to be a real Australian phenomenon. I haven't really been able to find them anywhere else, apart from the ubiquitous brownie. But a slice is a beautiful, simple, delicious thing, and I encourage you to take the time to explore and experiment with it. To explain, a slice is a sort of cake made in a shallow rectangular baking tray. Sometimes they are baked, but often the recipes are no-bake, so are wonderful cooking activities to do with children. Being rectangular too, they are also very easily to slice up and share around.

Here is a great no-bake recipe, which is quick to make and always a hit.

Coconut Apricot Slice

250gm unsalted butter
400g white chocolate, broken up
3 cups dried apricots, chopped
100ml cream
500g shortbread biscuits
1 cup dessicated coconut

Line the base of a rectangular baking tray (I used one that is 28cmx44 but you could use 2 18x25cm trays instead) with baking paper.

Put the shortbread biscuits in a strong plastic bag and use a rolling pint to crush the biscuits up to crumbs.

Melt the butter and cream in a saucepan, bring to the boil and remove from the heat. Break in the white chocolate and stir till melted and combined. Cool a little then add the biscuits, apricots and dessicated coconut. Press the mixture into your prepared tray and chill in the fridge for an hour or so.

Ice with lemon butter icing: 50g melted butter, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 4 cups icing sugar. Chill again and slice in the tray to serve.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Fine cakes

Here is a truly old recipe from "The Good Husewife's Jewell" published in 1596:

Take fine flowre and good Damaske water you must have no other liqueur but that, then take sweet butter, two or three yolkes of egges and a good quantity of Suger, and a few cloves, and mace, as your Cookes mouth shall serve him, and a lyttle saffron, and a little Gods good about a sponfull if you put in too much they shall arise, cutte them in squares lyke unto trenchers, and pricke them well, and let your oven be well swept and lay them uppon papers and so set them into the oven. Do not burne them if they be three or foure days old they bee the better.

My redaction:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 175g butter
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1tsp saffron, ground
  • ½ tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp mace, ground
  • 3 tablespoons rosewater
  • 1 tsp baking powder
Mix dry ingredients, and rub in the butter to make something resembling fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks and rosewater, and mix to make a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for an hour or so to settle. Roll out to 5mm and cut out shapes. Bake for about 20 minutes at 175 degrees until lightly golden.