Saturday, 19 December 2009

White Christmas

The white christmas of my childhood had copha and milk powder in it, if I recall correctly. A lack of ability to find copha in the shops here prompted the development of this very rich and tasty version. I hope you enjoy it as much as my friends have!

  • 600g white chocolate
  • 2 cups rice bubbles
  • 100g red glace cherries
  • 100g green glace cherries
  • 100g silvered almonds
  • 100g dried cranberries
  • 80g sultanas
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut

Method
  1. Line a 30cm x 20cm (base) baking pan with baking paper. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (don’t let bowl touch water). Fold in the remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into the prepared pan, pressing down with a large metal spoon. Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.
  2. Turn slice onto a chopping board. Using a knife that has been dipped in hot water, cut into squares. Serve.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Dark chocolate tartlets

Photo by Ed.

I served these tiny tarts at the wedding I catered for my friends Patrizia and Ed. (Full menu here). They were a real hit - rich and creamy and just the right size for a not-quite-guilt-free mouthful.

320g dark chocolate, (at least 60% cocoa but I actually don't recommend more than 80%)
500ml cream
4 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup sugar
gold leaf to decorate

Combine chopped bittersweet chocolate and cream in a heavy saucepan. Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove saucepan from heat and allow to cool a little.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, egg & sugar. Very gradually whisk chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until smooth and blended.

Pour chocolate filling into crust, sprinkle with gold leaf, and bake at 180 degrees until set (about 15-20 minutes for a single large shell, or 5-10 for small shells).

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Restaurant Review - The Poacher's Pantry

Visiting the Poacher's Pantry


I have a soft spot for this hidden gem in the Australian countryside.

The Poacher's Pantry is officially in Hall, NSW, just outside Canberra, ACT (Australia). That said, it is not in the town, but on Nanima Road. To get there, head along the Barton highway towards Yass and look for the signs and road off to the right.

What is special about this spot? I guess it is a combination of things. The atmosphere is a major feature. The farm property is very picturesque and the building itself seems the epitome of an Australian country house. The wide verandah and patio invite visitors to settle down for either a light snack or meal. From there you can gaze over the wide lawn, watching the birdlife, or other wildlife such as these kids playing.

The other appeal is of course, the food. The smokehouse that inspired the name makes all sorts of wonderful treats - favourites of mine are the emu prosciutto and smoked semi-dried tomatoes. Now the range has expanded with the planting of vineyards around the farm, producing Wily Trout cool climate wines.

The day we went was gloriously sunny (mind you, nowadays that is the norm for this part of the world) and we settled down to start with a glass of champagne and a mezze platter. This allowed us to try a little bit of everything: grilled zucchini, emu prosciutto, ham, smoked chicken, hommous, smoked tomatoes, baba ganoush... a grand mini feast!

For main courses, we chose:


  • smoked chicken and leek pie

  • smoked lamb with couscous

  • smoked lamb chops with sweet potato mash

  • smoked duck salad
The winning dish I would have to say, was my sister's choice of the smoked lamb chops.

But I made up for it with my dessert - I could not resist the Poacher's Mess: crumbled meringue, cream and lemon curd. Her creme brulee was good I am sure, but my dessert was divine!
I bought some brandy-smoked chicken and also 2 packets of smoked tomatoes. If you have never experienced a smoked tomato, I tell you, you have not yet truly lived! Sweet and smokey and a taste sensation like no other.


If you want to discover the Poacher's pantry for yourself, you can visit the website, or go there for yourself. "Marakei", Nanima Road, Hall, ACT. Ph +61 (0)2 6230 2487

Friday, 2 October 2009

Catering a reception...


The menu:
- sundried tomato palmiers
- gruyere gougers
- potato and pesto tortilla
- caramelised onion and gorgonzola pizzettas
- mushroom mini focaccias
- five spice duck and mango salsa croustades
- cucumber boats with smoked salmon and pickled ginger
- salmon, ricotta & sage crepe rolls
- miniature chocolate chip cup cakes

Note: this is quite a few dishes for a reception. Generally for a pre-dinner reception, you would make between 6 and 8 pieces per person, and probably only 4-6 different items. But I get bored myself with being faced with the same dishes over and over again (unless they are particularly delectable) so do tend to make a few more dishes. The salmon, ricotta and sage crepe rolls were a last minute addition, as I had been told that there would be 50 attendees, and then on the day was informed that in fact they had had 70 people rsvp positively.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Amuse-bouche: black and white bowties with haloumi, serrano ham & baby tomatoes

This charming amuse-bouche was a bit of a last minute inspiration, and went down a treat with the little dinner party I put together the other night.

My inspirations were multiple: a funky pasta I have in my cupboard just itching to be used, a visit to "goodies" (a local meditteranean shop) where I found haloumi, discovering a source of relatively inexpensive serrano ham, and the dinner party itself. The result was this simple, colourful and delectable medly, which I encourage you to try - I promise it is easy and scrummy.

Cooking time: I think it took me less than half an hour from start to finish.

Black and white bowties with haloumi, serrano ham and baby tomatoes

50 g Haloumi
2 slices Serrano Ham
17g of baby bow tie pasta or 3 pieces per person giant bow tie pasta (+3 pieces spare)
120g mixed baby tomatoes (red and yellow)

Finely cut the haloumi into 1/2cm cubes, and cut the baby tomatoes in quarters. Tear the serrano ham into pieces about 3 cm by 2cm (no need to be too careful, tear, not slice).

Brown the haloumi in a frypan with a tiny splash of olive oil - if you have a herbed oil so much the better. At the same time, bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the pasta until done (I won't give an exact time as it will depend on the style of pasta you choose) and then drain.

Once the haloumi has started to get a golden colour, put your chopped tomatoes into the pan. You don't want to cook them so much as warm them up. Add your cooked pasta and gently stir to combine in the pan.

Serve in small dishes garnished with the serrano ham.

The photos somehow don't really capture just how attractive this dish is... I need my friend Ed's photography skills!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Miniature chocolate chip cupcakes

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups sifted self-raising flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder, sifted
3/4 cup dark or milk choc bits
1 tablespoon cocoa powder, extra, to serve
3/4 cup milk
125g butter, melted, cooled
2 lightly beaten eggs

Instructions
Preheat oven to 200°C.

Prepare an oven tray with tiny paper lined foil cups.

Combine flour and caster sugar in a bowl. Stir in cocoa powder and choc bits. Make a well in the centre. Add milk, butter and eggs to flour mixture. Using a metal spoon, stir gently to combine.

Spoon mixture into the paper cups, till 3/4 full. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes until risen and set. Cool.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The menu of the wedding

I am sure that I have forgotten something and was too busy cooking to photograph everything but I hope to get photos from friends which I will post up. Watch this space for the recipes!

Apero:

Peking Duck Tartlets
Vegetarian Samosas
Smoked Chicken baby quiches
Vegetarian Sushi

Entree:

Wild Mushroom and Prosecco Feuillettes

Buffet:

Pasta with Sugo
Roast Lamb
Roast Chicken
Filipino Rice
Spanish Ham
Salami
Mediterranean Couscous Salad
Potato Salad
Green Salad
Tomato, Mozzarella & Basil
Caponata
Olives, Sundried Tomatoes, mushrooms

Dessert:

Wedding Cake (I didn't make this)
Berry Fool
Toblerone Chocolate Mousse (white and dark)
Rich Chocolate Tarts with gold leaf
Flourless Orange Cake
Mango Coconut Cake
Mini Lemon Meringue Tartlets
Micro Choc-chip Chocolate Cupcakes
Zabaglione Tartlets
Link
With Coffee

Shortbread Biscuits

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Coconut Mango Cake

This cake is both delicious and pretty. The mango gives it the most glorious gold colour and the taste combination of coconut and mango is sensational. You can use either fresh mango puree, or tinned at a pinch.

Ingredients

330g caster sugar
250g butter
4 eggs
160ml mango puree
2 cups desiccated coconut
375g self raising flour

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a cake tin (baker's grease will work really well too... hmmm must post the recipe for that!)

Beat the sugar and butter in a mixing bowl until combined (not light and fluffy, just combined) then add the eggs one at a time - don't beat strongly, just to combine. Grab a wooden spoon and stir in the coconut and mango puree and then the flour. Spread into your prepared cake tin - the mixture is quite thick.

Bake for about 1 and a half hours. Stand for a few minutes in the tin before turning out on to a wire rack; flip so it is top side up to cool.

Icing:

1 and a half cups of icing sugar
1 egg white
2 tablespoons mango puree
3/4 cup desiccated coconut

Beat the egg white till foamy... gradually beat in the icing sugar a tablespoon at a time. Stir in the puree and coconut, and then spread onto the cake.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Strawberry and Galingale cordial

So, what do you do when you have a spare punnet of strawberries? Make cordial of course!

This cordial is super simple, smells exquisite while cooking and makes a delightful summer drink. The galingale adds just a little edge of spicyness without the bite of ginger:

2 cups water
2 cups caster sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
500g strawberries (washed hulled and halved)
2 pieces of dried galingale

Put the sugar, water, galingale and lemon juice in a saucepan . Cook, while stirring over a low heat, for 2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat and until the mixture thickens just a little (about 5 minutes).
Reduce to medium-low. Add the strawberries. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes.



Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Strain through a fine sieve (I used a muslin cloth as well to remove the seeds) and pour into a bottle. Keep in the fridge.

To serve.... just add water!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Yoghurt Cake


This recipe is from a non-food blog: french word of the day. I subscribed to Kristin Espinasse's list a few years ago when I moved to Geneva. Back in 2007 she posted up a recipe for a yoghurt cake which sounded really fun to make, but somehow I never got around to making it. Not sure why, guess because whenever I had yoghurt in the house, I ate it instead of baking with it!

After I had an operation two years ago, I have become oddly sensitive to yoghurt, to the point where I really can't eat it any more. Some friends of mine were emptying their fridge before they departed for a long trip and gave me some yoghurt. Rather than throw it out I thought to myself "ahah! I can finally make that recipe!".

Here's hoping that I can eat cooked yoghurt.

The funky thing about this recipe is its beautiful simplicity.

Ingredients:
- one small container of plain yoghurt (reserve for measuring the remaining ingredients)
- flour
- sugar
- vegetable oil
- two eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder

Instructions
Fill/empty the yoghurt container...
...3 times with flour
...2 times with sugar
...1 time with vegetable oil

First combine yoghurt, beaten eggs & sugar. Next, add flour and baking soda, stir. Add a pinch of salt... Pour in oil and mix well. Pour into a greased cake pan and bake for 45 minutes at 150°C (300°F).

How easy is that?

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Cinnamon & apple cookies

With the delicious combination of oats, brown sugar, apples and cinnamon, these biscuits are like an apple crumble in biscuit form. This recipe isn't mine, but is adjusted from the ever reliable Australian Women's Weekly. Remember if you are cooking from this blog, my recipes are metric!

2 eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar (275g)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 cup mild vegetable oil
2 tblspn golden syrup
2 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped dried apples (135g)
1 3/4 cup plain flour (150g)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda
1 tspn ground cinnamon

Set your oven to preheat at 210 degrees.

Beat the sugar and eggs with an electric mixer until the mix becomes light in colour. Stir in the vanilla essence, oil and golden syrup. Then stir in the oats, apple and sifted dry ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.

Roll tablespoons of the mix into balls, and press down onto a silicone-paper lined baking tray. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on the tray.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Clementine Cookies

I had a fit of baking last night: we are doing some fundraising at work for the Australian bushfire appeals. I did a giant batch of anzac bikkies. I finished the anzacs at about 2am but by then the baking bug had bit me and I found myself searching through my cupboards for ingredients to make something, anything more!

My eyes fell upon the net of clementines in the big fridge (ie, on the balcony, which during winter becomes my second fridge). Grand. I would make something from them. Grand. umm... what??

From this 2am dilemma sprang this invention:

Clementine Cookies

2 dessert spoons of finely grated clementine rind
2 egg yolks
125 g butter
1 cup caster sugar
2 tablespoons clementine juice
2 and a half cups self raising flour

Turn your oven onto moderate (approx 170 degrees C) to warm up.

Beat the egg yolk, butter, rind and sugar until fluffy. Add the flour and then drizzle in the juice until it comes together into a dough. Knead gently on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth.

Take dessertspoons of the mixture and roll into balls. Press onto baking trays that are either lightly greased or have silicon paper. Bake for 15 minutes until lightly browned and allow to cool on the tray. Once cool ice and decorate - make up an icing with clementine juice and icing sugar.

This recipe makes about 60 biscuits.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Brie and Asparagus Quiche

Surprisingly, because it isn't the season for them, there were bunches of asparagus in the shops this week, and at a pretty reasonable price. No I didn't do terribly immoral things by buying asparagus from the other side of the world... no, these had a pretty ok carbon footprint having come from Spain.

So... what to make for a winter dinner with friends, using this delicious vegetable? I know...

Brie and Asparagus Quiche

1 cup cream or sour cream
1 bunch of asparagas (500g)
200g brie
salt & pepper
3 eggs
300g shortcrust pastry

  • Roll out the pastry and line a ceramic or glass quiche dish.
  • Lay out the asparagus and tuck slices of brie between.
  • Mix eggs & cream till nicely blended. Season with salt and pepper
  • Pour egg mix into the quiche dish
  • Bake in an oven at 200 degrees C for 25-30 minutes until nicely browned.
  • Serve warm or cold as you like... delicious!

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Perfect Christmas turkey?

This year I was cooking a small Christmas dinner, just for 7. Last year, I did duck breasts with a port and fig glaze, which was glorious, but this year, I wanted to remind myself of home a bit, so decided to do a turkey. I had planned to do my prosciutto and leek stuffing, but when I heard that one of the guests doesn't eat pork, did a bit of a rearrangement. So it was roast turkey with a leek and chestnut stuffing instead.

I also decided to try brining for the first time. I used a modified Nigella recipe for the brine:

1 turkey (3 kilos)
1 cup sea salt
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon allspice berries
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed

I mixed the brining ingredients, and, putting the turkey into a plastic food bag, poured the brine over it and sealed it. I kept the turkey in the fridge overnight.

The stuffing was pretty straight forward.

4 small cleaned leaks, sliced and then sweated in butter until soft
1 loaf of white bread, a little stale, torn up into small pieces
sage
oregano
500g cooked chestnuts
3 eggs

Mix the ingredients together and stuff into the bird. Easy eh? Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Put a piece of baking paper on top of the bird in a deep oven tray, then cover the whole thing with foil and seal in.

Bake for 30 minutes at the higher temperature then drop the temperature down to 180 degrees. Total roasting time is an hour per kilo. I took off the paper and foil about 45 minutes before the time was up to allow the skin to brown. Rest a little before carving.

I was a bit cynical about whether brining really would make a difference, but some research came up with some scientific reasoning, and now having done it, I can confirm that it really does make for a moist and tender bird. The only negative is that I thought that the meat did end up a little salty and I can imagine my parents chucking a fit about the evils of salting food. (They keep no salt in the house at all... I can live with that but for two things: boiled eggs and gravy) None of the dinner guests found the bird salty I should add!

Photo courtesy of Ed

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Aranyszarvas - a restaurant review

So, dear reader, you think that just because I am off on holidays in Hungary, that I am simply relaxing in hot spas and shopping, forgetting you completely? Never, I say, never!! As always I am willing to sacrifice my time and money and waistline, to bring you advice on where to eat wherever in the world I/you go.

Today my visit was to a Budapest restaurant by the name of ˝Aranysyarvas˝ (ask me not how you pronounce this!).

This restaurant has been around for quite a while in various forms and once was one of the hangouts for the artists of Budapest. Nowadays it's decor is more dignified than bohemian, as is it's game-oriented menu.

I started my meal with an entree of stuffed pheasant soup. This consommé had carrots, pheasant, a slice of what I assume was stuffing, and what appeared to be a few slices of black truffle. Sadly the truffle did not really make any impact on the soup, which was on the whole uninspired. The carrots were overcooked and the broth was pleasant but ordinary enough that I didn't bother to finish it once the solid bits were gone. The best part was definitely the stuffing, which was really delicious, with what was just a hint of something exotic... maybe anise, which I enjoyed very much.

Before moving on to the main course, the bread is worth a mention. The bread was good, but more interestingly, was served with a small pot of hommous. This is a charming idea and makes a nice change from butter. The hommous had none of the errors that can be made with this dish - commonly it can be either dry and grainy, conversely oily or dominated by garlic or tahini. Instead this was simple, moist and tasty.

The main course for me continued the game theme: deer with game sauce and noodles. I was a bit surprised by the dish that was set before me (when I get home I will upload the photos) as the ˝noodles˝ were in fact two large dumplings. They didn't look too promising to be truthful, but in fact were incredibly light, fluffy and delicious.

To pontificate a little, let me say that there are really two ways to deal with game meats such as venison. Cook it fast and rare, or long, slow and well done. The 1st is great but you have to be dealing with clients with an educated enough palate to cope with being served meat that still has a little blood in it. The 2nd is more dangerous a route as you risk the meat drying out and toughening. The restaurant chose the latter route and mostly carried it off. The meat was very very well done and I suspect if there hadn't had been sauce would have bee incredibly dry, but in fact it was not tough.

The sauce however was a bit of a shocker. At the risk of being uncharitable I would say the sauce was simply made of American sweet mustard! It overwhelmed everything else. The dumplings, with their delicate oregano flavour were definitely best kept at a distance from the sauce, and the meat, unless scraped clear of it, could have been any random red meat at all - no way to tell what! Once freed from the mustard (so to speak) it did have its own flavour which was worth discovering. I usually really love the sweet and game combination, but sadly this one just did not really work for me and I just could not get that hotdog mustard idea out of my brain.

Conclusion: Now, while the above review does sound somewhat condemning, I would have to say that if I lived in Budapest I would definitely give this restaurant another shot and in fact would say that my experience was, on the whole, positive. There is an interesting sort of hungarian mezze option which I would have liked to try, and if I had been there with a partner would definitely have made a push for.

The restaurant also deserves a big thumbs up for being one of the few non-smoking restaurants in Budapest, a definite plus in my books! The waiting staff were attentive and helpful, the black, cream and old gold decor is elegant without being intimidating. The background music was fascinating (hearing a soft jazz version of YMCA was slightly bizarre but surprisingly pleasant) and the price is reasonable. My meal of (the most expensive) entree, main and a soft drink (including a built in 10percent service charge) came out at about 4000 forint. (about 20US, 30AUD, 22 CHF, 15 EURO).

Where to find Aranyszarvas? It is in Buda district I, Szarvas Ter 1. (the number 5 bus coming from the Pest direction goes right to the doorstep). Open midday to 11pm every day. Ph: +36 (1) 375 6471. http://www.aranyszarvas.hu