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.