Tuesday, December 12, 2017

TWD - Soft Salted-Butter Caramels


This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is Soft Salted-Butter Caramels.  These caramels were easy to make and delicious.  However, "soft" is not a word that I would use to describe my version of them.  They ended up being a firm caramel, kind of like the centre of a Fantale.  They were in fact so hard that when they fell on the floor (oh yes, I had fun cutting these), they shattered in half. 




Dorie said that she rolled her caramels into logs.  This was not a possibility with my caramels.  However, despite their firmness, they still had some degree of flexibility - enough that they bent if left over the edge of the cutting board for too long, and could be straightened out.

I was pleased with these caramels and would make them again if I felt inclined to make sweets.

To see what everyone else thought of their Dorie recipe this week, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.  

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Ottolenghi's winter spiced cheesecake with marmalade glaze


In The Guardian recently, I spied an interesting sounding recipe for Winter Spiced Cheesecake with Marmalade Glaze by Yotam Ottolenghi.  The cheesecake was interesting because it contains sweet potato; yep, you read it correctly, sweet potato.

Being a sucker for anything a little unusual, of course I tried it:


As you can see, these cheesecake is a glorious orange colour, and the base has a wonderful earthiness about it from the toasted almonds and sesame seeds.  Don't skip the marmalade glaze - the filling of the cheesecake is not overly sweet, so the glaze gives the cheesecake a delightful sweet hit.

To make this cheesecake, you will need:


550g sweet potatoes cut in half lengthways
60g hard amaretti biscuits (I used morning coffee biscuits)
60g Hobnob biscuits (I used Graham crackers)
60g roasted almonds, roughly chopped
10g toasted sesame seeds
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
70g melted butter
300g cream cheese (I used light cream cheese)
250g mascarpone
90g icing sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla bean essence
140g fine-shred marmalade
3 tbsp maple syrup
Preheat your oven to 210 degrees Celsius. Line a round 23cm spring-form pan with baking paper.


Line  an oven tray with baking paper and put the sweet potatoes cut side down on it.  Roast the potatoes for 30-50 minutes until soft. Scoop out the potato flesh, discarding the skins, and process in a food processor until smooth.  Refrigerate until cold.

Put the biscuits in a food processor and blitz until fine crumbs form. Mix with the almonds, sesame seeds, spices and butter, then press into the base of the springform pan to form an even layer. Chill in the fridge.


In a stand mixer, beat the cooled sweet potato with the cream cheese, mascarpone, icing sugar, two tablespoons of lemon juice and a teaspoon of vanilla until smooth. Spread the filling evenly over the biscuit base, then refrigerate overnight or until set.


Bring the marmalade, maple syrup and the remaining lemon juice and vanilla to the boil in a small saucepan and stir for two minutes until the mixture thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.


Release the cheesecake from the pan, discard the paper, and pour the cooled marmalade mix evenly over the top of the cheesecake. Refrigerate again for 10 minutes, then serve.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

TWD - Princeton Gingersnaps


Last Thursday night, I went to see Culture Club at Rod Laver Arena.  I was too young to see them live when they were in their heyday, so it was a perfect opportunity to make up for lost time.  There were also two other 80s bands - Eurogliders (of Heaven Must Be There fame) and Thompson Twins' Tom Bailey.  I could not have named one Thompson Twins' song, but  when Tom Bailey sang Hold Me Now, I recognised it instantly.

Boy George's audience engagement was above average, with plenty of audience banter.  I love the fact that he used a number of very English phrases, like "tough bird", "a right old strop" and "go mental".  I know what these phrases mean, but they are not used that much in Australia.  It was fun to see the old Culture Club film clips playing in the background, reminding us all of just how much life we have lived since the early 80s.

Today's Tuesday with Dorie recipe (Dorie's Cookies) is Princeton Gingersnaps, which reminded me of another blast from the past, Arnotts Gingernut Cookies.  These cookies have a triple ginger hit - crystallised ginger, fresh ginger and ground ginger.  They are perfect to eat on their own or dunked in a cup of tea.   

I enjoyed the fact that these cookies were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.  They baked up perfectly round from a ball, which impressed me no end.

To see what everyone else baked this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the Tuesdays with Dorie website.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Loreto Christmas Cake


It is December already, and Christmas is almost here.  I have had a busier than usual year, so I am not as organised as I can be for Christmas preparations.  I have changed jobs, signed a contract to buy an apartment after months of weekends dedicated to the search, participated in a tap dancing concert at The Palais (a big theatre in Melbourne) with everything that leads up to that (classes, dress rehearsals, making costumes etc), danced at Luna Park for Melbourne Tap Week before that, participated on a professional committee, given a professional seminar presentation, attended a number of concerts (most recently Culture Club last Thursday night, and Paul McCartney is coming up next week), and baked and blogged my heart out.

Here is a happy snap from backstage at the tap concert - fittingly our class were dressed as layer cakes for one number:




This year, I made a conscious decision not to make a Christmas cake or a Christmas pudding.  I have decided just to make cookies and sweets for a change, although today, I did make some peach jam using Maggie Beer's recipe again, this time with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a couple of shots of whiskey added.

However, a few years back, I made a Christmas cake from Loreto Cooks, given to me by my friends Steve and Craig.  Steve was recently made mayor of Stonnington, his local council area - congratulations Steve! 

I took a photo of the Loreto Christmas Cake, but never blogged about it, so I figure that given that I did not make a cake this year, it is a good time to share this cake from Christmas past.  You still have time to make a Christmas cake if you want to!

To make the Loreto Christmas Cake (recipe by Linda George at p180 of Loreto Cooks), you will need:

500g raisins
125g mixed peel
125g glace cherries
125g blanched almonds
500g sultanas
125g currants
125g dates
1 orange, juice and rind
4 tablespoons brandy
315g plain flour
250g butter
250g brown sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons mixed spice
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon

Cut the fruit into small pieces, and place into a large bowl with the nuts.  Add the orange juice, rind and brandy to the bowl and soak for a few days, stirring daily (overnight is probably enough!).

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.  Line a 23cm square cake tin with one layer of baking paper and three layers of brown paper.

Mix half the flour with the fruit and nut mixture.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy.  Beat in the eggs one by one, beating well between each addition.  

Sift the other half of the flour with the remaining dry  ingredients into a separate bowl.  Alternately fold the flour and fruit and nut mixture into the egg mixture until well combined.

Scoop the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin, then bake for three to three and a half hours, reducing the temperature of the oven if necessary during the cooking process.  If the top of the cake starts getting too brown before it is finished cooking, place a foil "tent" over the top of the cake to protect the cake from burning on top.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool in the tin on a wire rack.

Store the cake wrapped in fresh baking paper and aluminium foil in a cool dark place until Christmas.  You may optionally ice the cake with royal icing or marzipan and fondant, but it is good as is.  Slice into small pieces and serve.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Cheat's Chicken Paella


On page 56 of the October Coles Mag, there was a recipe for Cheat's Chicken Paella.  It looked and sounded so good, I could not resist.  It was so much easier than regular paella.

I was not disappointed by the results.  Although perhaps not the same as a traditional paella, it is close enough and tastes very good.

Interested in giving this a try?  If so, you will need:

4 chicken thigh fillets, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
400g can diced tomatoes
500g microwaveable brown rice
500g frozen stir fry vegetables

Combine the chicken and seasoning in a bowl and set aside.

Heat a non-stick frying pan and cook the chicken. 

Add the tomatoes to the pan and bring to a simmer. 

Stir in the rice and vegetables, and cook until both the rice and vegetables are heated through.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TWD - Desert Roses


This week's Tuesday's with Dorie recipe is Desert Roses.  These are a melt and mix concoction comprised of cornflakes, dried fruits and nuts bound together with butter and chocolate.

There's not much to say about these.  They reminded me a little of fruit and nut chocolate with cornflakes for crispiness.  Dorie describes the Desert Roses as "candies", and that's pretty much what they are.

I made a quarter batch of desert roses - I had no idea what I'd do with 40 of them, and 340g of chocolate is a big investment in one recipe for a full batch.  They were delicious, but not so wonderful that I would hurry to make them again. 

To see what everyone else made this week and what they thought of it, visit the LYL section of the TWD website.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Becco Italian Restaurant, Melbourne


A few weeks ago, Tim took me out for a belated birthday dinner to Becco, a modern Italian restaurant hidden in a laneway off Bourke Street behind Pellegrinis.  

I had not heard of Becco until Tim booked this dinner, but it is I have since learned a well known and loved Melbourne restaurant.  On the night that we attended, a ringing endorsement of this restaurant arrived in the form of celebrity chef Guy Grossi and his family, who came to dine at Becco just before we left.  Guy of course owns his own Italian restaurant, so the fact that he attended another Italian restaurant for dinner is a stamp of approval indeed.

On arrival, we ordered champagne cocktails ($18):




For starter, we ordered one of the specials, stuffed zucchini flowers with raddichio salad: 


This starter was light and delicious.

For main, Tim ordered the Tagliata- Rare Grilled Porterhouse (200gm) Salsa Verde, Roasted Onion and Capers ($41):


I wanted to be adventurous and try something that I have never had before, and which is undoubtedly Italian - Veal Saltimbocca with Prosciutto, Parmesan, Sage and White Wine Reduction ($39):


This dish was really moist and tasty, and I was glad that I took the opportunity to try it.  It's a dish I'd order again.

For sides, we ordered the sautéed spinach with chilli ($12) and the buttery mash ($9):


No meal is complete without dessert, and this one was no exception. Tim ordered the hot apple pie with warm anglaise ($19), as he had heard good things about it:


He was not disappointed.

I ordered a daily special, a peach and raspberry crostata:


It was delicious, with the fruity filling being quite refreshing, and the crumb on the side adding a pleasing texture.

The service at Becco was friendly and efficient, adding to the overall terrific evening that we had at Becco.

Becco
11-25 Crossley Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9663 3000