Monday, 6 December 2010

Pear and butterscotch clafouti

Clafouti was originally made with cherries, but has developed far further and now includes all sorts of fruit. I love it, as a simple, quick to make and incredibly elegant dessert.

Traditional cherry clafouti includes a splash of kirsch. I decided to make a pear clafouti this time around - decided by having a surfeit of eggs in the house, and a large tin of pears at hand. To add a little extra twist, I had a think about flavours and concluded that butterscotch schnapps might just work. And indeed it does - the butterscotch schnapps being quite a warm creamy flavour it worked well with the custard and contrasted with the slightly crisper sharper edge of the pear.

Now I am sure a purist would use freshly sliced pears for this recipe, but then again, a purist wouldn't be allowing butterscotch schnapps anywhere either, so they can go be purist and we can enjoy the fruits of our experimental labours. Tinned pears mean that you can create this delicious dessert at any time of the year or day of the week. If you do use fresh pears, peel and core them, and slice them thinly.

Ingredients

Butter
5 eggs plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 cup vanilla sugar (I make my own by keeping my vanilla bean pods in the sugar jar)
1/2 cup sifted flour
1 and a half tablespoons butterscotch schnapps
1 cup (250ml) cream (normal 35% fat cream is fine; occasionally I even use sour cream)
3 extra tablespoons of caster sugar
1 large tin of pears, drained

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

Take a large ceramic or glass pie dish (a gratin dish will do at a pinch). Grease the bottom with the butter and sprinkle it with the caster sugar; shake the dish to get an even spread of sugar.

Place the eggs and vanilla sugar in a bowl and beat until pale and creamy Sprinkle on the flour, add the cream and the butterscotch schnapps and mix with the whisk to combine well.

Arrange the pears around the dish in an attractive pattern. Pour the batter over the top.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until set. Allow to cool, and serve sprinkled lightly with sugar, with or without icecream.

Chocolate Caramel Slice

This is a bit of an Aussie classic, and is totally rich and sweet and addictive. I took a tray of these to a potluck the other night. My friend Kate tried one and decided that she was skipping all the other food at the party (quiches, salads, crumbles and pies) and was going to eat nothing but these for her dinner!

Base
2 cups self raising flour
250g butter
1 1/2 cups dessicated coconut
1 cup fine sugar

Caramel Layer
2 tins of sweetened condensed milk (around 400g each)
60 grams of butter
60mls (4 tablespoons)golden syrup

Topping
300g dark chocolate
40g copha/vegetable shortening


Method

Turn the oven on to warm up, to 180 degrees. Start by making the base. Put all the dry base ingredients in a bowl. Melt the butter, allow to cool a little and then mix into the dry ingredients. Line the base of a baking dish with baking paper (allowing the paper to go up two sides to help you get the slice our later). Tip the base into the tin and spread and press down with the back of a spoon.

Bake for 10 - 15 minutes until lightly golden. Cool.

While the base is baking, start the caramel - put all the ingredients in a pot and heat them, stirring continuously for 8-10 minutes - it will thicken and go golden. Pour over the biscuit base and spread out to ensure the base is covered. Cool until set (this will take 3 or 4 hours in the fridge).
Then, in a double boiler, heat the chocolate and copha and stir together till melted and pourable. Pour over the caramel and biscuit, and then cool again. Cut into squares to serve.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Hmmm... my project food blog intro

So I decided to enter this "Project Foodblog Challenge" thing. This first step is more challenging than I expected. I have to share with you what defines me as a food blogger and what makes me a food blog star... It is rare that I analyse this particular part of my life.

Like most of my foodblogging friends I am passionate about food and cooking.

I guess what I have that is perhaps a little rare in the grand foodblog community is simply the span of my cooking. Not just doing home cooking, nor modern cooking, nor cooking from a particular area, my food spans not only countries, but centuries.

How many foodbloggers are catering for 200 people, as well as making dinner for one? How many are exploring medieval and renaissance recipes as well as inventing completely new and different food? Giving restaurant reviews across the world, as well as sharing recipes and cooking tips. How many are cooking Italian, French, Japanese, Australian, English, Malaysian, Indonesian, Hungarian... the world on a plate? Hosting and cooking challenge dinner parties, organising social restaurant outings, and teaching cooking from pasta to sushi? Ooh, and I forgot.. doing a bit of food design for my friend's published cookbook on the side. Many are doing one or two of these things, but I suspect very few do them all.

I hope that what I also do is share what I love most about cooking: the adventure, the fun, and how wonderfully simple it all can be.

I put together this photo montage of myself, to sort of sum up my foodie self... ======>

To vote for me and keep me cooking and experimenting, head over to the Project Foodblog site.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

On a slightly different subject....

I have mixed pride about my food photography, and in fact my photography generally.

Sometimes I take shots that I am absolutely thrilled with, but rather more often the photos are ok at best. I do wish I had more talent, but to be truthful, don't spend the time really learning enough about photography to become expert. That said, among the chaff are some real gems and I have decided to share them in a more formal fashion.

I just wanted to tell you that I now have a Redbubble site, where you can buy prints in the form of greetings cards and posters of some of my photos. Even if you don't lash out and buy anything, I would love it if you visited my site and commented on photos you like...

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Tomato sauce/ketchup

So I had made the sausage rolls, but it seemed a terrible shame to serve them with commercial tomato sauce.

But what recipe to use? A quick rummage through my cookbooks turned up nothing. Hmm... time to get inventing!

1.7kg tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 large onions
1.5 cups vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 cups water

Chop the onions finely. Cook with a splash of olive oil in a deep heavy bottomed saucepan until softened and transparent. Add the other ingredients and bring to the boil. Drop to a simmer, and simmer for an hour, topping up with water if required. Push through a seive and pour into jars.

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Someone asked for my judgement on how it worked out. I would describe it as a complete success (I don't post up my failures ).  Texturally it was just right, pouring and dipping in just the way you want from a sauce - clinging to the sausage rolls perfectly.

Well worth the effort to make it. It was a little spicier somehow than a commercial tomato sauce. I would definitely make this sauce again. 

Maybe if I am lucky one of the guests at the wedding will post up their perspectives on it!
 

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Party food - traditional sausage rolls

I have another catering gig - my friend Oggy's wedding. I gave the bride and groom a list of potential dishes, from which they could choose a menu. They asked what the chances were of having every one of them, as they liked the sound of all of them so much! But the groom also had his own special request: sausage rolls.

I have posted up a sausage roll recipe previously: my chicken, basil and prosciutto sausage rolls. Various friends having made them have declared them to be a great success. That said, these are not going to fulfill the desire of the groom: I think he wants a good red meat sausage roll. So a bit of experimentation has produced this recipe, which I think will fit the bill perfectly. It makes 100 cocktail sized sausage rolls. I know that this sounds like a lot, but believe me, they disappear quickly during a party!

You do need a food processor for this recipe, and it is super quick and easy. Be warned though, there is no way to avoid getting your hands messy!

1.3kg beef mince
2 medium eggs
2 large onions
2 1/2 cups fresh white breadcrumbs - use the food processor to process stale 'square' bread.
4tsp dried herbs - I used sage, oregano, basil and marjoram
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 kg pre-rolled puff pastry (5 rolls)
1 egg lightly beaten, for brushing on top of the rolls

Peel and roughly chop the onion. Pop it into the food processor and process until it is quite fine in texture (but not liquid!). Put into a large bowl with the breadcrumbs. Stir in the herbs, salt and pepper.

There is no need to rinse the bowl of the food processor. Just put in the mince (you might need to process in two lots) and process it down to make it a sort of paste. It doesn't need to be perfectly smooth, but it does need to be much finer than the original mince. This will help the filling to hold together. Put into the bowl, and break into the bowl, two of the eggs. With your hands, mix the whole lot together.

Cut the sheet of puff pastry in half lengthwise. Take a good handful of the filling and form into a fat sausage (I guess about 2.5 cm/1 inch in diameter) and lay along the long edge of one piece of the pastry. Brush the opposite edge with water and then fold the pastry over to make a roll. Place seam side down. Repeat with the other pieces of pastry.

Cut the rolls in 3cm lengths. Brush the tops with egg yolk, and chill for at least 15 minutes. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown in quite a hot oven - 240 degrees. Serve warm with tomato sauce, home made or otherwise. (These can happily be made the day before, or even made and frozen uncooked)

Friday, 7 May 2010

Medieval cookery - duck pies

This recipe for duck pie has few ingredients and may seem a little odd, using the juice but not flesh of onions as a seasoning. These were so good that back in the kitchens we spent quite a while trying to figure out an excuse not to send them out to be eaten at all... we wanted to keep them all for ourselves!

The hardest thing about the recipe is tracking down Verjuice. Verjuice is unfermented wine grape juice and is a common ingredient used in medieval and renaissance cooking. It has come back into modern cookery quite recently and adds a very special taste to dishes. In Australia, Maggie Beer produces verjuice commercially - sadly I have yet to find a supplier here in Europe.

At a total pinch you could use a very mild vinegar - I had a bottle of verjuice that a friend sent me and with experimentation, I made up a mixture of grape juice and wine vinegar and was able to get something that resembled verjuice for the feast, as my little bottle certainly didn't contain enough to feed 138 people!

Somewhat unusually for an ancient 'receipt', this recipe does have some guidance as to quantities of ingredients. My version used this as a guide but I made it with duck meat rather than a whole bird.

To bake a Mallard (The Good Housewife's Jewell 1596)

Take three or foure Onyons, and stampe them in a morter, then straine them with a saucer full of vergice, then take your mallard and put him into the iuyce of the sayde onyons, and season him with pepper, and salte, cloves and mace, then put your Mallard into the coffin with the saide juyce of the onyons, and a good quantity of Winter-savorye, a little tyme, and perselye chopped small, and sweete Butter, so close it up and bake it.

Take three onions and food process them. Pour 1/3 of a cup of verjuice into the food processor, then strain through muslin to extract the juices (I recommend setting aside the onions to make into onion soup). Take 1/2 a kilo of duck meat, chopped into pieces and marinate in the onion juice, with pepper, salt, 1/4 tsp ground mace and a pinch of ground cloves. I couldn't find fresh winter savory, so used dried - about 1/2 a tablespoon, then a teaspoon of thyme and a tablespoon of parsley.

Bake in a closed pie shell, or as little individual pies. Eat while piping hot.


Saturday, 20 February 2010

Quick restaurant review - Alanya

There are quite a few dishes that I miss from Australia. Good Vietnamese Pho, really spicy north Indian curries, Laksa, and Kabak Mucveri.

Now the latter is a Turkish dish, and you would think that being in Europe (and not that far from Turkey) it would be easy to get, but I haven't been able to find it, and even if I could, I suspect it would be a disappointment compared to the Kabak Mucveri in my fave Turkish restaurant in Canberra. A trip to Alanya was definitely on the list for my visit to Australia.

I got my chance, and met up with a friend and ex-colleague for lunch there. The restaurant itself hadn't changed much in the years I have been away. It is tucked away upstairs in the Style arcade in Manuka and has a big challenge to fight the trendy on-street restaurants that saturate this mini town centre. But fight it has, and for forty years (!) it has been serving Turkish food to hungry Canberrans.

The reason why it has managed to stay viable for all this time is because it is simply good. What more can I say than go there and check it out for yourself.

Address 22 Style Arcade, Franklin Street,
Manuka, ACT 2603
Phone (02) 6295 9678
Fax (02) 6295 9624

Friday, 5 February 2010

Spicy Roasted Carrot and Sweet Potato soup

This tasty winter soup was invented on a whim, as I cooked it up for a work lunch. It is fun having a workplace that uses both my normal work skills and occasionally some of my other talents! I served it up, and after a colleague tasted the leftovers, was promptly asked to do another batch for another lunch a few days later. I made the new batch and found it as tasty as the first, which tells me, this is definitely one to share with you all.

Now, as usual, I was slack about weighing and measuring, but luckily the receipts from the supermarket have weights on them. It's funny because I thought this recipe is super simple, with only a handful of ingredients, but now that I list them out, I included 12 different things!
  • 1.2kg carrots
  • 1kg sweet potatoes
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger
  • 1 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 2 lime leaves
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut milk powder
  • 1 good sized pinch of chili flakes
  • ~ 1 tsp lemon myrtle, coconut and chili seasoning
Peel and chop the carrots and sweet potatoes into even sized chunks. Lightly drizzle with just a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. With your hands turn the pieces around to get them covered in oil, and then bake in a 200 degree (c) oven until the sweet potato has gone soft and browned. The carrots take longer to cook than the sweet potato, so while they may have browned a little, are not likely to be very soft. But don't worry about that as they will cook up in the pot - this is more to get that delicious sweet caramelisation taste into the soup.

While these are cooking, chop the onions - no need to be too fussy about how finely they are chopped as it will all be blended in the end. Brown the onion in a 5 litre pot with a bit of olive oil. Once they are transparent and going brown, add the finely chopped fresh ginger and the garlic - they will only take seconds to cook.

Once browned, add a splash of vegetable stock; enough to lift the caramelised onion and tasty bits from the pan.

Add the roasted orange vegetables, pour in the rest of the stock and add the lime leaves and chili. Peel and chop the potatoes and add them to the pot. Bring to the boil and then drop to a simmer. Simmer until the carrot and potatoes have softened - the potatoes will likely start to fall to pieces, while the carrots will crush easily with the back of a spoon.

Blend the soup with a stick blender. Stir in the coconut milk powder along with an equal amount of water. You may need to add extra water to thin the soup out as it gets very thick. If you are transporting it, I advise leaving it very thick to make it less likely to leak out of its container during transport, and then then when reheating. Reheat on quite a low heat, to prevent it sticking to the bottom.

Pour into a pretty tureen to serve, sprinkle some of the lemon myrtle sprinkle and swirl it through. There you go... all finished!