Wednesday, April 30, 2014

WWDH - Asian Mushroom Omelette

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay is a little taste of Asia, as Margaret chose Asian Mushroom Omelette, the recipe for which is online here.

I made a third of the recipe for breakfast.  This omelette was OK, but a little dry for my taste.  It really needed the sauce (Donna suggests oyster sauce, I used hoisin sauce.)

To see what Margaret, Sarah and Kayte thought of this dish, visit their websites.

Friday, April 25, 2014

FFWD - Green as Spring Veal Stew - er, Beef Stew

This week's French Friday with Dorie recipe is Green as Spring Veal Stew - except that in my case, I used beef, so that makes it Green as Spring Beef Stew.  The green comes from a mix of rocket (arugula), spinach and herbs in the sauce.

I am not sure what I was expecting with this one, but I imagined something green and pretty - whereas this looks like  a stew, and hence not pretty, although tasty.  I didn't throw away the vegetables with which the meat was cooked - I saved them and ate them on the side.

I really don't have a lot to say about this stew.  It tasted OK, if rather grassy, but it didn't grab me enough to make it again. 

To see what the other Doristas thought of this stew, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

As you read this, I will be winging my way to Chicago for the start of a Route 66 coach tour, so no FFWD for me for a while.  See you when I get back!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

WWDH - Potato, Rosemary and Goats Cheese Tarts

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, Kayte has chosen Potato, Rosemary and Goat's Cheese Tarts from p158 of Modern Classics I. These are little puff pastry rectangles topped with slices of boiled potato, dollops of goats cheese and sprinkled with rosemary.

These tarts are simply but effective.  I think a sprinkle of some spices would really lift these, but they are fine as they are.

To see what Kayte, Margaret and Sarah thought of these tarts, visit their websites.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Taxi Kitchen, Hofbrauhaus and Hopetoun Tea Rooms

Recently, I had a weekend of fancy eating, with food so good I have to share.  It started at Friday lunch, with a legal team catchup at Taxi Kitchen in Federation Square, Melbourne. We had the lunch special, being $39 for two courses and a glass of wine.

With my pinot noir, I ordered the seared salmon with  warm sea lettuce and zucchini salad with black garlic dressing:

I had no idea what sea lettuce was, but the meal itself was delicious.  I'd definitely order this again.

For my second course, of course I chose dessert.  I ordered lemon meringue pie (frozen like Nan's) (normally $13):

This dessert was visually gorgeous, and the taste did not disappoint - like lemon sorbet atop a biscuit with meringue on top.  I think the pink crumbs were freeze-dried raspberries.

Verdict - not cheap, but delicious.

The same night, I went to Hofbrauhaus Melbourne in Market Lane with Tim:

Tim and I ordered a Zwicklbier (pale ale ($8.50 for 300ml):

This is a light, pleasant brew that goes down easily.

For main, Tim ordered the HB Wurstplatte ($29.50), comprising bratwurst, kaiserkrainer (cheese filled kransky) and nurnberger (mini Bavarian sausages):

while I ordered the bratwurst ($26.50):

Both meals were served with mustard, mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.  I had a two for one voucher, so our meals were half price.

For dessert, we shared a serve of apfelstrudel ($13.50):

This is a light, fruity dessert with a crispy pastry shell.  It was served with icecream and custard, and was a lovely way to finish the meal.

Verdict -  hearty fare, perfect for winter.

Finally, on Saturday, I went to lunch with Sandra at our usual haunt, the Hopetoun Tea Rooms in the Block Arcade.  I ordered the daily special of seafood ravioli ($23):

The ravioli was light and delicate, and served in a lemony sauce.

For desert, I opted for the pistachio and raspberry cheesecake ($10.50):

I had spied this dessert in the window before going in, and had to have it:

I washed it all down with one of the many house teas.

As always, it was a delicious experience in lovely, old fashioned surrounds.  Just be prepared to queue for around 15 minutes to get in. 

If you come to Melbourne and want to try any of the venues, here are their details:

Taxi Kitchen
Level 1 Transport Hotel
Federation Square,
Cnr Swanston & Flinders Streets
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9654 8808  
Hofbrauhaus Melbourne
18- 28 Market Lane 
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9663 3361
Hopetoun Tea Rooms
Block Arcade
282 Collins Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9650 2777

Friday, April 18, 2014

Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote

We are going crazy for spring veges this week at French Fridays with Dorie this week with Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote.  Yes, I realise that in the Southern Hemisphere, we are coming into winter, but most of the Doristas are in the Northern Hemisphere, hence some lovely green spring vegetables are perfect for them at this time of year.

So, what's all this "en papillote" stuff about?  Well, it's just French for cooking in a bag - on this occasion, a foil bag made by folding alfoil around the vegetables before baking them in the oven.  It's quite a nifty way to cook that I learned from Jamie Oliver years ago,  back in his "lovely jubbly" days.  It keeps all the moisture in, facilitates preparation in advance, and is a "set and forget" method of cooking.

Here's a look at the veges resting in their foil cocoon after cooking:

I served my veges in a bag with tahini, cumin and buttermilk chicken from WWDH.

To see what the other Doristas thought of their veges en papillote, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WWDH - Thai Red Beef Curry


For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, I chose Red Thai Beef Curry from p104 of Modern Classics Book I.  You can also find the recipe online here

This thick, rich beef curry uses store bought curry paste for convenience, and contains pumpkin to beef it up a bit.  I served the curry atop a helping of boiled brown rice.  I used light coconut cream to try and cut down on some of the calories.

This was melt-in-your mouth delicious, and I would definitely make it again.  If you are a lover of curries, you can't go past the taste and convenience of this Donna Hay recipe.

To see what Margaret and Sarah thought of this curry, visit their websites.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Cranberry Hot Cross Buns

Easter is almost upon us, hence 'tis the season for making hot cross buns.  I have always wanted to try making my own hot cross buns, and was sold when I saw a recipe in this month's Gourmet Traveller Magazine for sour cherry hot cross buns. The recipe has been posted online here.

Instead of sour cherries, I used dried cranberries, as I already had some in the house.  These buns do take some time to make, so think of it as a half a day project while you wait for risings, baking etc. The buns are not hard to make.  The hardest part for me was marking the cross - the first piping tip I used was too thin for the flour paste used to mark the cross, hence I expended lots of energy getting nowhere before switching to a broader tip.  Remember to put the glaze on while the buns are still hot (although the recipe is silent on this).

The resulting buns were soft and moist inside, with a lovely sweet sugar glaze on top:

I am not a huge bread person, but I really enjoyed eating one of these hot cross buns with a dab of margarine:

If you are looking for a good hot cross bun recipe to cut your teeth on, I recommend trying this sour cherry hot cross bun recipe (with cherries or other fruit).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Best. Ever. Red Velvet Cake for Edna's Birthday

Today is Edna's birthday.  I brought Edna's cake into work on Friday so that she could enjoy it with everyone at work before her birthday.  I asked around as to Edna's favourite cake flavour, and as it turns out, it's red velvet.

By good fortune, I had just bought Sweet and Vicious: Baking with Attitude by Libbie Summers.  This book is awesome - just take a look at the video here.  It has hot pink tipped pages, a sassy cover, fabulous photographs and great stories, not to mention recipes that are a little different.  This book is my kind of cookbook! Libbie happened to include a recipe for Best. Ever. Red Velvet Cake, which she makes for her now husband as it is his favourite cake.  Perfect!!! This had to be the cake for Edna.

Libbie says that her secret weapon in this cake is using vanilla sugar.  She also says that she has cut down on the amount of sugar in the cake and frosting from the traditional red velvet recipes so that you end up with a tangy cake that is not overly sweet.  Libbie's assessment of this cake was confirmed by Edna, who loved that it was not overly sweet.  The only changes that I made to the recipe were that I used three quarters of a teaspoon of red gel colouring rather than using liquid colouring, and that I only made one third of the cream cheese frosting - and that was heaps to frost the double layer cake.  (Note also that I never buy buttermilk - for each cup of milk add one tablespoon of lemon juice to curdle it.  I also make my own cake flour by putting 2 tablespoons of cornflour in a one cup measuring cup, then fill it up with flour - and voila, cake flour.)

Here are the cakes pre-frosting:

Next comes the crumb layer of frosting:

and finally, the top of layer of frosting decorated with red writing gel, sugar pearls and sugar hearts arranged as flowers: 

The gel pen gave me grief by squirting unevenly - at one stage I had to scrape off the writing because it was so messy, and this unfortunately left a faint red stain in the frosting.  No matter - I was happy with the overall result, and there were no complaints from Edna about it.

Here's my slice of cake which Edna kindly saved for me: 

I really enjoyed this cake too - it is as smooth as silk, not overly sweet, and the tangy frosting makes a nice contrast to the cake itself.  This cake is seriously yum - I can see why Libbie's husband loves it.

If you would like the recipe, I seriously recommend buying Libbie's book - it is truly fabulous, and well off the beaten track of your typical baking book.

Friday, April 11, 2014

FFWD - Quiche Maraichère

This week, our French Fridays with Dorie assignment was Quiche Maraichère - literally a "market fresh" quiche.  This quiche is unusual in that it is mostly vegetables with only minimal custard, and the cheese is on top rather than through the quiche.

The vegetables were leeks, carrots, capsicum and celery, and were finely diced then pan cooked before being placed in a par-baked tart shell and covered with a custard of eggs and cream.  Close to the end of baking, the quiche is topped with grated cheddar cheese. 

I didn't expect much of this quiche, and before the cheese was added, I thought it looked a little scary.  However, once the cheese had melted over the top of the vegetables, which fill the tart shell,  the quiche looks amazing, and serves as a flavoursome dinner:

This was another surprise hit for me.  To see what the other Doristas thought of this quiche, visit the LYL section of the FFWD website.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Maggie Beer's Peach Jam

It has been a week of using up lacklustre fruit from the end of the season.  I had a kilo of peaches languishing in my fridge because - well, they were pretty bland peaches.  However, I didn't want to waste them.  Initially, I thought of making baked goods with them, but I thought that a whole kilo of peaches would take an awful lot of baking to use them up.  Plan B was to make jam!

I searched for the right recipe for peach jam for me, and I chose Maggie Beer’s Peach Jam recipe from The Cook and the Chef TV series. I liked the fact that Maggie did not peel the peaches - she used the whole fruit in her jam after de-seeding them.  In fact, she even uses the seeds in the cooking process, presumably to add flavour.  Instead of amaretto, I added brandy to my jam.  I am so glad I didn't skip it - the alcohol added a lovely flavour to the jam.

This jam is so versatile.  As well as indulging my habit of eating jam out of the jar, I have been mixing it in with my rolled oats for breakfast and putting it on icecream for dessert.  It would also be fabulous in muffins, to fill cakes or on toast.  And it transformed some very ordinary peaches into the extraordinary.   Perfect!

The recipe is as follows:

1.5kg peaches
750g sugar
rind of 1 lemon
juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons amaretto (optional)

Wash the peaches, then cut the peach flesh off the stone and chop the flesh into pieces. (Use a mixture of ripe and less ripe peaches - the less ripe peaches add pectin.)  Maggie's tip is not to store the peaches in the fridge (oops!) as it reduces the pectin in the fruit.
Place a large, heavy based saucepan over low heat. Add peaches and lemon rind to the pot and allow to simmer in the juice that will ooze from the peaches, stirring occasionally. Add the peach stones tied up in a clean Chux (dish cloth) to the pot and continue to simmer.

When fruit seems cooked (ie soft), remove the peach stones and add the sugar and lemon juice. Once sugar has dissolved into the fruit increase the heat. Allow to boil rapidly until setting stage has been reached, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Just after removing the jam from the heat, stir through the amaretto.

Carefully spoon the hot jam into glass jars and top with the lids.  Turn the jars upside down while cooling to sterilise the whole of the jars with hot jam.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

WWDH - Tahini, cumin and buttermilk marinated chicken

For Wednesday with Donna Hay this week, Sarah chose Tahini, Cumin and Buttermilk Marinated Chicken, from p26 of Donna Hay Magazine Issue 68, April/May 2013. 

I was not sure how this combination would go - the tahini, buttermilk and cumin mixture is used to coat chicken thighs before baking.  However, I need not have worried, as the end result is a moist, flavoursome, nutty tasting chicken.

I served my chicken with Baby Bok Choy, Sugar Snaps and Garlic en Papillote, a future FFWD assignment, and microwave-baked sweet potato.

If you are interested in making this chicken dish, you will need:

1/2 cup of buttermilk
1/4 cup of tahini paste
1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup of jasmine rice
1/4 cup of slivered almonds
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Place the buttermilk, tahini, juice from half the lemon, garlic and cumin in a bowl and mix to combine. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Place the chicken in a non-stick baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 30 minutes.

To see what Sarah and Margaret thought of this dish, visit their websites.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Strawberry Loaf Cake


We are slowly and steadily working our way through mid autumn in Melbourne.  Daylight savings has ended, it is dark in the mornings and the early evenings, and it is getting cooler.  Autumn also marks the end of the last of the summer fruit in the supermarket. 

Although strawberries are available all year round because of modern growing methods, they are at their best in the summer.  I bought some strawberries on sale recently, but they were small, pale shadows of the large, juicy summer strawberries.  To avoid wasting them, I decided to make a strawberry cake.  I settled on this strawberry loaf cake cake from Pixels and Crumbs.  I liked it because it used oil rather than butter, and contained tangy Greek yoghurt.  I cut the sugar by half, and found the cake to be sweet enough without the extra sugar.

The use of oil means the cake is not as fluffy as a buttery cake, and has a rather smooth, close crumb.  However, it was still delicious, and was a rather good way to use up some otherwise lacklustre strawberries and elevate them to a new level. 
While scrumptious on its own, I think this cake would be superb served with a scoop of vanilla icecream or some warm custard.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Black Vinegar Cupcakes with Yoghurt Icing

Some time ago, I made Black Vinegar Cake with Sour Cream Icing from Adam Liaw's book, Two Asian Kitchens.  Unfortunately, at that time, I did not have black vinegar, so I substituted balsamic vinegar instead.

Having since acquired black vinegar, I was talking to Yvonne at Pilates about the black vinegar cake, and she said she'd like to try it.  Accordingly, I made the black vinegar cake again, just for Yvonne.  However, to mix it up and make it easier to bring her a taste, I made cupcakes instead of one large cake:

I also changed the icing by substituting sour cream for Greek yoghurt:

Here's a peek inside:

These cakes are dense and fruity and not overly sweet.  Although they are not your average cake, you would never know that they contained vinegar.

I am not entirely sure whether Yvonne liked her black vinegar cupcake or not, but they disappeared at work, so I am going to take that as a good sign.  I think this cake is an intriguing concept, and interesting to make if you have some dried fruit about the house that you have spare for baking.

Friday, April 4, 2014

FFWD - Visitandine

For French Fridays with Dorie this week, our assignment is to make a cake named after an order of French nuns - the Visitandine (recipe here).  This is a very simple white cake made with egg whites. 

Dorie suggested using the cake as a base for strawberry shortcake to dress it up.  The photos in her book of the "strawberry shortcake" Visitandine were so enchanting that I decided this was the route I had to go.  I split the batter between two 9" pans for baking, then sandwiched a slice with Greek yoghurt, raspberry curd and fresh raspberries.  It was the perfect treat for a sunny, warm autumn day. 

For the rest of the cake, which was travelling to work, the  strawberry shortcake version was not really an option, so I sandwiched the remainder of the two cakes together with raspberry curd and spread the top of the cake with yoghurt icing: 

Both versions were great, though of course the "raspberry shortcake" version was the best.  The cake is light and vanilla-tasting, so would complement a variety of flavours.

To see what the other Doristas thought of Visitandine, visit the LYL section of the website.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Walnut and Buckwheat Caramel Tart - My Little French Kitchen

Unfortunately, the place where I live is not that great at picking up signals.  Wifi is a nightmare, with the connection dropping in and out (if it connects at all), so I changed to ADSL.  Also, since the advent of digital television, I have been without SBS.  This has nothing to do with the need to retune my TV - even before the cutover from analogue to digital TV, I could not get SBS on my digital TV.  Someone suggested that I need to shift the TV aerial, but this is not possible when I live in rented accommodation.  Accordingly, for now, I must live without SBS.  In real terms, this means that I must live without their fabulous Thursday night cooking shows.

One of the shows that I did not get to see on SBS was Rachel Khoo's The Little Paris Kitchen.  This is rather sad, because Rachel's books that accompanied the show look charming, and I can only imagine that the show brought the books to life.

However, I did have a stroke of good luck in that I found a copy of Rachel's latest book, My Little French Kitchen, for half price at the bookshop because someone had ripped the dust jacket in one place. Fabulous!  The rip doesn't bother me or affect the useability of the book, so I made the easy decision to take it home.

There are many delicious sounding regional recipes from all over France in My Little French Kitchen, accompanied by beautiful photographs to make your mouth water.  A recipe that immediately caught my eye was for Walnut and Buckwheat Caramel Tart.  I love caramel, and I was intrigued by the use of buckwheat - and I just happened to have half a jar of buckwheat left over from my failed attempt to like buckwheat smoothies.  Accordingly, I bought the remaining ingredients and this tart became the first recipe that I made from My Little French Kitchen - Australian style.

And isn't it a beauty:

The grassiness of the buckwheat is not evident in the flavour of the tart, and the buckwheat serves merely to provide some added crunch.  Walnuts and caramel are a match made in heaven, and the whole kit and kaboodle sits atop a sweet shortcrust base.

You can find the recipe for this tart here.  I won't give you the sweet pastry recipe, because you can use any sweet pastry that you like (or buy a ready made shell), and I personally found this pastry difficult to work with before and after baking.  It is very soft, and I had so much trouble with getting it off the paper once rolled out that in the end, I just scraped it off the paper and pressed it into the tart pan.  Once baked, the pastry seemed rather crumbly.

To toast the buckwheat, you just heat up a frying pan and dry toast the buckwheat in the pan (ie no oil) for around five minutes or until it has turned golden and smells nutty.  And boy, is it a heavenly smell!

The caramel recipe surprised me because you only caramelise half of the sugar, and rest of the sugar is dumped into the caramel with the rest of the filling ingredients all at once.  Do be careful when pouring the other filling ingredients into the hot caramel, as it really does spit angrily, and you don't want a caramel burn on your arm (or anywhere else).

You need a large, sturdy knife to cut the finished tart into pieces, but it is well worth it.  The flavours and textures blend well together, and a slice of this tart is a perfect treat for morning tiffin.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Locale at De Bortoli, Yarra Valley

Last weekend, my friends J and S came down to Melbourne for a visit.  They had originally been going to a concert which was cancelled, but as their flights and accommodation were non-cancellable, they came anyway.  They couldn't have picked a nicer weekend - the weather was warm and sunny, and you would never know that autumn is upon us.

On Sunday, I was invited to go for a jaunt with them to the Yarra Valley.  I hadn't been there for years, and it was perfect driving weather, so I was very happy to accept.  We arrived at our destination early for our lunch booking, so we filled in a happy hour or so at Maddens Rise Winery, where we were greeted by Archie, an enthusiastic Jack Russell, and a friendly wave from his owner, Emma.  Emma took us through a tasting of all of the Madden Rise biodynamic wines, and they were so unexpectedly good that I bought four bottles (despite not intending to buy any wine at all).  My favourite was the Pink Fizz - pink bubbles, what's not to love?  

We had such a good time that we ended up being half an hour late for our lunch booking at Locale, at the De Bortoli Winery.  However, we phoned in advance to say we'd be late, and we luckily had our table waiting for us on arrival.  

Locale is a light, bright, airy space, which provides a relaxing atmosphere in which to enjoy the fine dining menu. 

You may choose to either have two courses for $55 or three for $68.  Sensibly, we opted for three courses!

To start, we received a platter of sourdough bread with spicy olive oil to dip it in:

For entree, I chose something I have never had before and always wanted to try - a terrine.  This terrine was pheasant and confit duck terrine with pistachio, parsley, celeriac remoulade and crostini:

My favourite part of this was the flavoursome celeriac remoulade, although it was of course all very tasty.

For main course, I ordered the striploin with polenta, ox tongue, green beans, shallots and red wine jus:

The standout element of this dish was the red wine jus - Manu from My Kitchen Rules would love it!  The shallots cooked in the jus were also very tasty. The beef was meant to be medium rare, but arrived served medium - this was fine with me, as I am not that fussy about how my meat is cooked, as long as it hasn't been charred to a cinder or subdued into a compound akin to rubber.

For dessert, I couldn't go past the zeppole (Italian ricotta donuts, vanilla cannoli, pistachio and honey gelato):

The donuts were only tiny, and not quite what I expected, but delicious all the same.  The cannoli was suitably crispy and shattered in your mouth, and the creme patisserie filling was smooth and creamy.  The honey gelato added a shot of intense sweetness to the platter, and the pistachio crumb added some texture.  

Everyone enjoyed their menu choices, and we left full and happy.  The staff were efficient and courteous, and we promptly received each course and beverages.

Locale at De Bortoli was an enjoyable dining experience that I would gladly revisit.

Maddens Rise Wines
Cnr Maroondah Highway & Maddens Lane
Coldstream Vic 3770
Ph: +61 3 9739 1977
Locale Restaurant
Pinnacle Lane
Dixons Creek VIC 3775
Ph: +61 3 5965 2271 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Raspberry friands

Friands are a favourite in Australian cafes.  The word "friand" means "little delicacy". They are closely related to the French financier, being made with egg whites, icing sugar and almond meal, but they are baked in an oval shape rather than a bar.  Friands come in all sorts of flavour combinations - you can flavour the basic friand recipe however you like.

I adapted a mango and pistachio friand recipe to make raspberry friands.  I was very pleased with this recipe, as the resulting friands were lovely and moist - I have had problems in the past with friands being too dry.  Raspberries added an irresistible flavour to the basic friand.

Below I have set out how to make these friands: 

Adapted from Bake: Favourite Home-Made Recipes by Allyson Gofton

1½ cups icing sugar
½ cup plain flour
1 cup ground almonds
175 grams melted butter
6 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup frozen raspberries
20 extra raspberries, for decoration

Grease 10 holes of a friand pan (or 10 standard muffin holes), and pre-heat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius.

Sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl, and stir in the ground almonds. Make a hollow in the centre of the dry ingredients.

Beat the egg whites until foamy, then pour into the hollow in the dry ingredients with the butter, vanilla and  lemon juice and fold together to combine. Gently fold through the 1/2 cup raspberries (not thawed). 

Divide the batter between the 10 greased friand holes.   Press two raspberries into the top of each friand.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or  until cooked through.  Cool friands in the pan for ~ 5 minutes before unmoulding onto a wire rack to cool.  Dust tops of cooled friands with icing sugar.