Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The cover of the July issue of Cuisine features a pile of pastry leaves that have been swept up by a pastry brush. It is really cute! The cover was presumably inspired by the "Upper Crust Pies" feature in the July edition. One of those pie recipes is for Oxtail and Beetroot Pie. As soon as I read this recipe, I knew I wanted to make it. You can find the recipe here.
This pie truly is a labour of love, taking me five or so hours to make all up (including resting and cooling times) spread over a couple of days. It was also not a cheap pie to make, as it contains one whole bottle of red wine and 1.5kg of oxtail, which despite constituting offal, costs as much as ordinary meat. (I cheated and used a slightly lesser quantity of oxtail.)
However, the end result of this expenditure of money and labour was worth it. This pie is rich and flavoursome, and absolutely perfect as a winter meal. The author of the recipe mentions that it is also good to eat cold; however, with the wind howling outside and the temperature dropping below 10 degrees Celsius, I think I will be consuming the entirety of this pie as a hot dish.
If you are feeling up to the challenge, I recommend trying this recipe - this pie is absolutely delicious!
Saturday, July 28, 2007
I made the passionfruit cheesecakes by blending together a tin of condensed milk, a 250g block of cream cheese, the juice of one lemon, two 10g sachets of gelatine dissolved in water and an 80g tin of passionfruit pulp, then pouring the mixture into tart shells made in accordance with the same recipe that I used for the mini lemon meringue pies and refrigerating until set. I used both light condensed milk and light cream cheese - it makes no difference to the finished product, in my view. I made 24 mini cheesecakes, with some cheesecake filling left over (which I just poured onto a biscuit base in an 8" cheesecake pan for myself to eat at leisure).
The patty cakes were made from the recipe in The Margaret Fulton Cookbook. I iced the patty cakes with bright yellow (sand) and blue (sea) coloured glace icing, and topped each with an Allens Naturals Tropical Fish lolly.
Thanks to Racquel and Sam for brainstorming and organising our beach party - it brightened up a grey Friday afternoon.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
- A jar of apple butter from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, PA, which Katie says is made by her friend's family and is her favourite breakfast treat. I am sure that it will taste devine on a warm crumpet on a cold Melbourne morning;
- A box of fair trade chocolates made by Theo Chocolate of Seattle, WA. The flavours sound wonderful - burnt sugar, lemon, peanut butter and jelly, fig-fennel, mint and ivory coast (and I love chocolate!!);
- A packet of Intelligentsia Fair Trade Organic Bolivian Coffee - which will be perfect for my new coffee machine that I won at work;
- A Microplane mini zester - Katie, you must have ESP! I have needed a zester forever so that I stop scraping the skin off my thumb by zesting using the grater attachment from my mandolin without the guard; and
- Katie's favourite blueberry muffin recipe from February 2007 Food and Wine magazine. Katie says that even her husband likes these muffins, despite hating fruit muffins. As I am a fan of fruit muffins, I can't wait to try this recipe.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Here comes the sun,
Frangipani pie has nothing to do with the almond cream filling used by pastry chefs known as "frangipane". Rather, it is a pie comprised of alternating layers of coconut cream, pineapple and meringue. The resulting white/yellow/white pie resembles the frangipani flowers which grow in tropical regions. I love the delicate looking frangipani flower, and hence have always had a special affinity for the delicious dessert which bears its name. The yellow pineapple in the filling evokes daydreams of sunny, lazy summers at the beach, soaking up the sun, surf and sand. This makes frangipani pie the perfect dessert for this "Tropical Paradise" version of Sugar High Friday.
1/4 cup cold water
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Today was Dawn's birthday (our last office birthday for over a month!). I have had enough chocolate cake for quite a while, so wanted to make a non-chocolate birthday treat for Dawn. For quite some time, I had been looking longingly at the recipe for Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake on p202 of Nigella Lawson's Forever Summer. It seems quite ironic that, in the coldest winter in Melbourne in 10 years or so, I would be making something from a book whose title features summer. However, I think you neeed a bit of irony to fight the bitter cold.
Monday, July 16, 2007
It has quite a smooth texture and seemed to go down almost too well!!!
Can I get the recipe?"
Sunday, July 15, 2007
There is also a great quote early on in the film which I wish to share with you. Sophie (Drew Barrymore) explains to Alex (Hugh Grant) why the melody is not more important than the lyrics in the song-writing process. Here is what she had to say:
A melody is like seeing someone for the first time - the physical attraction - sex ... But then, as you get to know the person, that's the lyrics, their story, who they are underneath. It's the combination of the two that makes it magic.
I love this quote, and I leave it with you as my thought for today.
However, I have recently seen numerous recipes for baked risotto, which eliminate the crucial but tedious task of assisting the rice to absorb liquid via the stove-top method. When I saw Emma's yummy looking baked chicken and pumpkin rissotto at The Laughing Gastronome (the recipe is here), I was enticed to try the culinary equivalent of bungy jumping and attempt to make risotto again - and I am glad that I did!
Doesn't this look fantastic! And it tasted just as good as it looks. The risotto is based on chicken stock, which gives it a nice flavour, and it worked even though I used rose wine instead of white wine as required by the recipe (hey, I didn't have any white!). I am also a fan of the juicy sweetness of japanese pumpkin, which makes me laugh considering that I wouldn't touch the stuff until I lived in a University college and had to eat it or starve.
This risotto is the perfect comfort food for a cold winter's night - I highly recommend giving it a go. And because it is baked, you just stick it in the oven and let it look after itself - no more tedious stirring and coaxing for the rice to absorb liquid on a stovetop. Brilliant!
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Nihowera, contributed to by Bron and Emma, is hosting a Mid-winter Christmas Feast. I love Christmas and the festivities associated with it, so an opportunity to experience Christmas twice in one year is too good to miss!
I absolutely adore Christmas pudding, with its rich fruity taste, accompanied by lashings of custard and cream - even when it is a typical Aussie Christmas Day and it is 30 degrees Celsius outside! Given it is so cold in Melbourne in winter, Christmas in July is a much more appropriate time to eat Christmas pudding. Accordingly, for my contribution to the Nihowera mid-winter Christmas feast, I have chosen my adaptation of Nigella's Non-Conformist Christmas pudding, from p69 of Feast. I made this pudding in November last year, but this is its first public appearance.
The recipe, with my adaptations, is as follows:
300g dried figs, chopped
125g dried cherries, chopped
100g dried apricots, chopped
175g unsalted butter, chopped into cubes
100g fresh breadcrumbs
100g almond meal
100g plain flour
1 tspn baking powder
1/ tspn bicarbonate of soda
150g brown sugar
2 apples, grated
150ml carton sour cream
1 tbspn vanilla extract
1 tspn cinnamon
Grease a pudding basin. Put the dried fruit in a saucepan with the amaretto and brandy and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Put butter cubes on top of the fruit and simmer for a further 10 minutes. (Note - watch the fruit and stir it often - I let my fruit burn slightly onto the saucepan, which luckily had no ill effects on the taste of the pudding, but made my cleaning up job a lot harder!)
Combine the breadcrumbs, almond meal, cocoa, flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar in a bowl. Add the apples and the dried fruit mixture and mix well.
In another bowl, beat together the eggs, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon until smooth. Pour into the fruit and flour mixture and mix well. Pour the pudding batter into the pudding basin, firmly secure the lid, and steam for 4 hours in a large saucepan of boiling water. (I managed to steam a number of self-adhesive wall hooks off the walls of my flat in the process!!) Check the water levels in the saucepan every half an hour or so to be sure that the pudding doesn't boil dry, and top up as necessary. However, ensure that you don't get water into the pudding - the water should come no further than half way up the sides of the pudding basin.
Take the pudding out of the saucepan and leave to cool and set in the pudding basin overnight. Unmould the cooled pudding, wrap in greaseproof paper and cling film, and store in the refrigerator until required. Leave the pudding flavours to mature for a few days or weeks before serving. When ready to serve the pudding, either resteam it for 1 1/2 hours, or (the easier option!) cut off slices and heat up in the microwave on high for approximately one minute. Serve warm with custard, cream and icecream.
Although she calls it a "non-conformist" Christmas pudding, Nigella does so because she has used non-traditional ingredients like cocoa, sour cream and almond meal in the pudding. It is not a reference to the taste, as it tastes as rich and comforting as any other Christmas pudding that I have tried, and is miles better than a store-bought pudding.
To finish off my contribution to Nihowera's Christmas Mid-winter Feast, I couldn't resist posting a photo of the Christmas treats that I made for work last Christmas. The photo features sugar cookies that have been coated in chocolate or icing, apricot balls, rum balls and miniature Christmas puddings.
Meri Kirihimete in July everyone!
Yesterday was Black Friday - that is, Friday the 13th - and from my perspective, it truly was a black Friday. The reason for this is that Tim left the building as a work colleague for the last time to move on to other things. In a job that often requires me to turn around results in a short time and for which I rely on good team work from my colleagues to be able to meet the expectations of others, I appreciated Tim's fast and to the point advice. Tim also has a unique sense of humour which often brightened up the routine of a working day for our group. While no-one in an organisation is irreplacable from a functional viewpoint, this doesn't take account of the fact that the individuals who fill each role in an organisation are valued by others for themselves, quite apart from the functional role that they perform. Tim is a fantastic person, and the imprint that he has made on my life cannot be filled by anyone else.
As part of Tim's leaving presentation, he was presented with collective gifts from the team, which included lots of chocolate! It therefore seemed apt that the leaving cake that I chose to make for Tim contained about 400g of chocolate. This cake was a striped chocolate cake, the recipe for which I have to thank Zinnur from the beautiful blog, Our Patisserie. The recipe for this cake can be found here.
I have made this cake once before, and was able to draw on that experience to realise that I needed to make two roulades instead of one to end up with a cake of normal (ie 20cm) diameter. If you only make a single roulade, you will end up with a very small cake, and will have to waste a lot of the chocolate layers. Even when I used two roulades to make the "striped" component of the cake, I still had to trim off a small amount of the chocolate layers to match the diameter of the three cakes. I chose to decorate this cake with grated white chocolate and white chocolate piping to contrast with the dark ganache, instead of with the chocolate curls used by Zinnur. This also enabled me to personalise the cake with a piped message (which is legible even if it is a little wonky!).
Apart from the "heavy duty" chocolate experience that this cake provides, it has the advantage of the "wow" factor, especially if you don't tell anyone that the cake is striped inside before it is cut. It looks a lot harder to make than it actually is - the only tricky parts are ensuring that your roulade strips are approximately even in width so that you end up with a flat middle section for the cake (hence ensuring that the three sections fit evenly together), and that the three sections of the cake end up approximately even in diameter (so that you don't end up with something akin to the Leaning Tower of Pisa!).
I enjoyed eating this cake as much as making it, and I particularly enjoyed the "oohs" and "aahs" from my colleagues when they saw the stripes and wondered how I made the cake. Unfortunately, Tim was rather unwell with a cold on his last day, so I am not sure if he could taste this cake or whether he liked it. However, I hope that he did.
Good luck Tim - I will miss you!
Monday, July 9, 2007
Blog Party hosted by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness is turning two this month, and to celebrate, the theme of this month's Blog Party is Blogger's Choice. Brilliant! I had already decided to make baby lemon meringue pies for work this week, so nominating them as the appetizer for my entry for Blog Party was a no brainer.
The recipe that I used for my lemon meringue pies is this one, found on Exclusively Food. In my madness, I started making the pies at 8pm on Sunday night to take to work on Monday morning. Accordingly, this recipe was especially attractive because the pastry is made in the food processor rather than having to laboriously rub the butter into the flour. Making the pastry was a breeze, and took no more than 5 minutes (which was a blessing at that time of night, given that the pastry has to chill for an hour before you can use it). Anyone can make this pastry if they have a food processor, I promise - it is so easy.
Instead of rolling out the pastry to line a pie plate and blind baking it, as you would for a full sized pie, I cut out circles from the rolled pastry and placed them in patty tins to form baby tart shells. Before baking, I pricked the bottom of each tart shell a couple of times with a fork, and baked the tart shells for around 20 minutes (yep, the same time as recommended for the full sized tart shell!).
The lemon curdy filling was also really simple to make - I ended up with a thick, sharp yet sweet, smooth curd, and did not have to sieve out any lumps. The sharpish lemon with the lovely fluffy sweet meringue top is a killer combination. The only part that was even remotely difficult about making these pies was trying to spread a meringue top over each tiny tart to seal it without mixing it into the lemon curd. (I have to confess that around 11pm at night while I was doing this, I was asking myself why!!)
There was plenty of lemon curd filling left over (having made tiny tarts instead of a full sized one), which will go perfectly on crumpets for breakfast on chilly Melbourne mornings.
I managed to make 24 perfect (ah, well, I thought so! As you can see, I ate one!) baby lemon meringue pies, and one bite assuaged my fears that the pastry would be tastless and inedible - it was crisp and melt in your mouth. (I have a mild phobia about making pastry, even though I have in recent years been able to make it successfully - that fear of failure never leaves you!)
For an accompanying cocktail, I looked no further than the wonderful wild hibiscus flowers that I purchased for Wild Weeds, and made a rose spritzer. I placed a hibiscus flower plus a little syrup in which they are stored in the bottom of a champagne flute, and filled the flute half and half with rose wine and sparkling mineral water. Yum!
Happy second birthday to Stephanie's Blog Party!
This post is dedicated to Tim, who likes lemon meringue pie and who inspired this choice.
Friday, July 6, 2007
Knowing that Tarun likes chocolate cake, as a friend of mine had already given him a lesson in how to bake a mud cake, I chose Nigella's old-fashioned chocolate cake from p269 of Feast. Tarun was unconvinced that he was up to the challenge of this double decker beauty, but Nigella promised that this cake was simple to make.
We had a few interesting moments making this cake, because Tarun does not have a food processor or a stand mixer. However, we got there in the end, with Tarun doing the lion's share of the work so that he could learn - but in my case, perhaps it was the blind leading the blind!! I was slightly worried about the cake because the batter seemed very thick, but my worrying was needless - the cake turned out beautifully, with a rich chocolatey smell and a taste to match. Tarun was already an expert at melting chocolate from his earlier baking lesson, so he basically made the icing himself.
Instead of Nigella's enchanting sugared violets, we decorated Tarun's cake with jaffas - which had the advantage of there being plenty left over to eat later ;).
Everyone at work who tried the cake that I spoke to loved it - especially the very thick, rich, chocolatey icing. Well done Tarun - and happy birthday!
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
Jamie says that "mulligatawny" is an anglicisation of the Tamil words for "pepper water". This seems an apt description of this soup - it has a rich, peppery flavour, which was not entirely to my liking. My soup finished up being very thick, and I had to add extra water to thin it over the one and one quarter hour cooking time. The flavour seemed almost smoky - whether this was because my soup was overcooked (my stove has a mind of its own) or whether this is the way it is meant to be, I do not know.
I probably wouldn't make this soup again, but it gives me great pleasure to have, at least once, tried mulligatawny soup, as seen on Seinfeld.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
To warm me up from the inside out, I made Chilli Chicken from p74 of the July 2007 issue of Delicious magazine for dinner. The original was White Chilli Chicken, and relied on using white and yellow ingredients for its aesthetic paleness. I was not concerned about the finished product being white (in fact, I prefer it not to be!), so I coloured my onions in the pan, used green capsicums and chillis instead of yellow, and used three bean mix instead of cannellini beans.
While the picture I have taken of this dish makes it look rather unattractive (how do you take an attractive picture of something like this!), it tasted superb. It contains creamed corn, which both thickens the dish and gives it a pleasant creamy flavour. The dish is served with rice for extra body.
I would definitely make this again - it is both filling and tasty.
To give you the flavour of the quality of the market, my purchases today were:
Butterfield Farm pumpkin and ginger jam:
Gorgeous cupcake from Hello Cupcake by Sandy:
Baby knitwear for a friend by Susan Pierce:
There are so many fabulous things to check out at Hawthorn craft market - if you live in Melbourne, I highly recommend dropping in to check it out.