Saturday, April 29, 2006

Sweet Bruschetta

Derrick from Obsession with Food has developed an obsession for old bread and for this months IMBB we're to delve into those stale loaves and see what we can create.

I've gone the savoury route in the past - whipping up Fattoush with left over pita bread and Bruschetta al Pomodoro with yesterday's Ciabatta - so I thought I'd step into the sweet area. I didn't really want to make Bread and Butter pudding having had a few too many rich desserts of late, so when I saw this idea for a Sweet Bruschetta, I was sold.

The bread I'm using is called a Briont - it's a Brioche type loaf with a lovely sweet yeasty aroma and largish open grain. It has a lightly glazed crust and an egg yellow crumb.

briont ©


Friday, April 28, 2006

Pumpkin Soup

Australian Sunset Pumpkin


It's not Mick Jaggers lips - it's a pumpkin called Australian Sunset. It has an usual patterned ochre coloured skin and a deep orange flesh. Spying it on offer at the market, and the change to more cooler weather, spurred me to try it out as a soup.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Parmesan Bread

It's the return of those little loaves - this time it's simply flavoured with Parmigiano Reggiano (Grana would be a good substitute).

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Parmesan Bread

2 teaspoons dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup lukewarm water
2 cups plain flour, sifted with ½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
25 grams Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

Place the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl, whisk together and let sit 5 minutes to ensure the yeast activates.

Add the flour, olive oil and Parmigiano and using a dough hook, work the mixture for around 5 minutes until the dough is smooth.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for a couple of minutes to ensure the dough is nice and elastic and glossy looking.

Divide it into 6 - either by eye or use scales. Roll each piece into an elongated ball shape and place into a lightly greased mini loaf tin


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Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until risen.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for around 20 minutes or until golden.

These were well matched to the Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Panch Phora

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Panch Phora (also known as Panch Phoran, Panch Phoron, Panch Puran, Panch Puram, Punch Puram and Bengali Five-spice!) is an Indian spice blend made up of equal quantities of cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds and nigella seeds. In Bengali, Panch Phoron is said to mean "five spices". It's most commonly used in fish and vegetable dishes and usually added to the oil to impart it's aromatics.

panch phora© by Haalo


When I've used it in the past it's been a pre-made version but one of my latest cookbooks called "Spice It" opened my eyes to its simple nature - so now I'm making my own. I have mentioned my love of potatoes so when I saw a recipe that involved potatoes and panch phora I just had to make it. Anyway, how could you resist something that looked like this...

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Spiced Potatoes

500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon panch phora
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 red onion, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely sliced

Par-cook the potato cubes in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain, and dry with paper towels.

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the panch phoron, ground cumin, ground turmeric and chilli powder and cook over a medium heat until fragrant. Add the onions and cook until onion has softened and lightly browned.

Add the potatoes and garlic and stir well ensuring they are well coated in spice. Continue cooking for 15-20 minutes until potato is cooked through and golden.

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This was an excellent companion to roasted chicken.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Anzac Biscuits

April 25th - ANZAC Day, a day of national commemoration of those that served our country and made the ultimate sacrifice. One of the traditions of this day are Anzac Biscuits.

The history of Anzac biscuits (or Soldiers' Biscuits as the were originally called) is a case of ingenuity and making of the most of what you have - during the first world war, food sent overseas in care packages had to survive two or more months of sea-travel to get to the soldiers. So the problem arose of making something nutritious but with a long shelf-life. The solution to that problem came in the form of a biscuit. One of the ingenious aspects of this recipe was that due to the lack of eggs an alternative had to be found, and that came in the form of golden syrup to bind the biscuit and give it that unmistakable flavour.

The ingredients haven't changed since these were first baked - every biscuit really is a little time capsule.

anzac biscuits© by Haalo


Anzac Biscuits


1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain flour
⅔ cup raw sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons golden syrup
125g butter
1 teaspoon bi-carb of soda
2 tablespoons hot water

Preheat oven to 160°C.

Mix together the oats, flour, sugar and coconut.

In a pan, melt the butter with the golden syrup, mixing well to combine. Set aside then mix the bi-carb and hot water together, before pouring it into the butter mixture, stir then pour this into the dry ingredients.

Stir well and then scoop out tablespoonful of the mix - roll in your palm then flatten into a rough circle.

Place on a baking paper lined tray, leaving space for the biscuits to spread.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until a golden brown. Cool on the tray before placing on wire racks.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Savoiardi

Savoiardi, as the name suggests, were first baked for the House of Savoy and while they originate from the Piemonte region of Italy, Savoiardi were also baked in other areas ruled by the Savoys. Differences in the recipe are the result of the regional nature of Italian cookery.

Savoiardi are probably best known for their part in Tiramisu or as I've shown recently, as a partner to Zabaglione, but they are also used in Zucotto. They can naturally enough, be eaten as is.

There appears to be two forms of Savoiardi, the thicker, more uniform type that are made using a mould and that you usually find in packets at the supermarket, or the thinner, less constructed type that I've made here, and which are more in line with what I've experienced from Pasticcerias and are the style that I tend to prefer.

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Savoiardi

100g plain flour
100g caster sugar
4 egg yolks
2 egg whites

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F.

Beat the yolks with sugar until light and fluffy and sugar has dissolved.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.

Sift flour over egg yolk mixture and very gently fold to amalgamate. You need to keep the mixture as light as possible and incorporate as much air as possible.

Finally add the egg whites in two batches, folding until just combined.

Put mixture into piping bag fitted with plain tip. Pipe lines onto baking paper - as you can see from this batch, you really can make them any size. Dust them with icing sugar and then bake for about 8 minutes or until they are a light golden colour.

Let them cool on the tray before removing them - keep them stored in an airtight container.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

What's For Pud?

What's for Pud? asked Becks&Posh and Jam Faced. That question had me looking towards my resident Englishman Paalo. After a moment of contemplation he came up with a most inspired suggestion "Why don't you ask Mrs. Beeton?"

Of course - the first lady of English cookery. Before Nigella and Delia and Elizabeth there was Mrs. Beeton - Englishwomen, and those in the colonies, owe her many thanks.

I must say that this 1869 edition of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management has never been used by me - I do hang my head in shame for that oversight.

The recipe calls for "moist sugar" which thanks to the power of google turns out to mean Muscovado Sugar - you can, like I have for this recipe, use Dark Brown Sugar instead. This is actually quite different as all the custards I've made use white or caster sugars.

Mrs. Beeton offers up some alternatives for the dish, the substitution of almonds for lemon and using half cream-half milk and/or the doubling of eggs to make it a richer dish. What I have listed below is the original recipe with my alternations shown in brackets.

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Baked Custard Pudding

1½ pints of milk (¾ pint cream and ¾ pint milk)
the rind of 1/4 lemon (1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste)
¼ lb. of moist sugar (¼ lb. Dark Brown sugar)
4 eggs

Put the milk into a saucepan with the sugar and lemon-rind and let this infuse for about a half hour or until the milk is well flavoured.

(Whisk the sugar, vanilla bean paste and milk together in a bowl until combined - let it sit to infuse for half an hour)

Whisk the eggs, yolks and whites; pour the milk to them, stirring all the while.

Strain the custard into the dish, grate a little nutmeg over the top and bake in a very slow oven for about 1/2 hour or rather longer.

(The time it takes to cook will depend on the size of the dish you use)

Serve cold.

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I've teamed these puddings with some traditional buttered apples (made by caramelising apple chunks in a butter and brown sugar mix). The puddings may not look very glamorous but they can't be beaten for taste. A most delightful way to see off St George's Day.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is a classic so I was quite interested in this take on onion soup by Donna Hay. It's extremely simple, you don't have to peel the onions or the garlic and chock full of flavours.

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Roasted Garlic and Onion Soup

4 brown onions, halved but unpeeled
1 head of garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
4 cups stock
fresh thyme leaves
freshly ground black pepper
fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Place the cut onions and garlic in a baking paper lined tray. Drizzle over with olive oil, turning the onions & garlic over to ensure they are well coated before placing the onions cut side down on the tray. Bake for around an hour until they have softened. Let them cool slightly in the pan.

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Remove the onion skin and the next layer and cut it into thick pieces. Squeeze the garlic from each clove - mash it roughly with a fork.

In a saucepan, add the garlic, onion, water, stock, a teaspoon of fresh thyme and a good grinding of pepper. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until the soup begins to thicken. Remove a third of the soup and blend it - this adds another dimension to the taste. Return the blended soup to the pot, mix well and serve with a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley.

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I've served this with miniature Parmesan loaves (recipe will be added shortly)

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

(Almost) Friday o'Clock Swill #11: Chocolate Martini

Since the theme for the blog party was desserts I felt I had to include chocolate in the offerings, so I've gone for something a little different and offered chocolate in an boozy format.

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Chocolate Martini

45ml Vanilla Vodka
15ml White Creme de Cacoa
ice
Chocolate topping

Swirl chocolate topping around martini glass in a quasi artistic manner.

Into a shaker, add ice, vodka and white creme de cacoa and shake until well combined. Carefully pour into glass. The chocolate will slowly dissolve into the drink.

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SHF #18

Chandra from Lick the Spoon lead us into a yet to be explored theme for this month's SHF. We're to get a little tipsy, well, our desserts are at least.

I've decided on a traditional Italian dessert - and something that my mother would whip up for special occasions. It's incredibly simple, having only 3 ingredients but they work in such perfect harmony that it's sublimely delicious - add some feather-light homemade savoiardi and it's heaven.

I'll be making what is probably one of the most mispronounced Italian desserta - Zabaglione (not to mention all its various ways of spelling). There is no bag in Zabaglione but there is Marsala!

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Zabaglione or Zabajone or Zabaione

3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
6 tablespoons Marsala

Beat the egg yolks and sugar until light and creamy.

Add the Marsala and then place the bowl onto a double boiler and continue whisking until it lightens, increases in volume and holds it's shape.

Pour into 2 glasses and serve with Savoiardi biscuits.

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Another serving suggestion is to offer them in shot glasses with mini-sized savoiardi as was done for the Blog Party entry.

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Creme Brulée Spoon

While making some more usual sized creme brulée's I took the opportunity to make some of these spoon-sized ones as part of my Blog Party entry.

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They can be made using your favourite recipe - just let the mixture harden before placing it on the spoon. You can prepare them well ahead of time and caramelise the top when you're ready to serve them.

There's some debate on what sugar should be used to form the crust, for these I've used demerera sugar. It does achieve an attractive golden brown colour and isn't as prone to over-caramelise as caster sugar.

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Each spoon has about two bites worth - enough to tempt you to have another

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Blog Party #9

It's that time again - Blog Party time! Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness has thought up another killer theme for this month's event - Dessert! How could anyone resist delectable dessert served in perfect bite sized pieces - there's no reason not to have seconds (or thirds or fourths...)

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On offer are:
Shots of Zabaglione with mini Savoiardi
Creme Brulée Spoon
Chocolate Martini

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Creamy Broccoli Soup

Poor Broccoli - often disregarded and thoughts of it are met with a scowl, it really does deserve to be treated better then that. This soup should turn even the most avowed broccoli hater into it's cheerleader. Try it, you won't be dissapointed.

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Creamy Broccoli Soup

2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable, choice is yours)
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped into cubes
175g broccoli, cut into small pieces
½ cup cream
salt and freshly ground white pepper
50g broccoli, extra for decoration, chopped into small pieces and par boiled

In a pan heat up the stock, then add the potatoes and broccoli.

Cook over medium heat, covered, until the vegetables are soft.

Blend until smooth.

Add the cream, season with salt and pepper, add the par-cooked broccoli and gently reheat (don't let it boil once you've added the cream).

Spoon into bowls and serve with crusty bread.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Ligurian Olive Bread

A wonderful companion to soup, these miniature loaves are a visual delight as well. I like to use the small, black Ligurian olives for these breads - their size, taste (even non-olive eaters enjoy them) and colour work well. You should be able to find them preserved in oil - you can use that oil in the bread.

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Ligurian Olive Bread

2 teaspoons dry yeast
½ teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup lukewarm water
2 cups plain flour, sifted with ½ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup pitted Ligurian olives, sliced in half

Place the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl, whisk together and let sit 5 minutes to ensure the yeast activates.

Tumble in the flour, olive oil and olives and using a mixer fitted with a dough hook begin to work the mixture for around 5 minutes until the dough is smooth.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead for a couple of minutes to ensure the dough is nice and elastic and glossy looking.

Divide it into 6 - either by eye or use scales. Roll each piece into an elongated ball shape and place into a lightly greased mini loaf tin

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Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until risen.

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Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for around 20 minutes or until golden.

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These can be reheated by wrapping loosely in foil and placing in a low oven for 10 minutes.

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Spice is Right #1: Ancient Spices

Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries certainly had me scouring through the reference books and asking the question "What is the oldest spice?"

It was quite fascinating reading up on the history of spices - I would not have known that Cinnamon & Sesame seeds have been used for over 5000 years or that Nutmeg only dates from the 7th century if not for this blog event and it's encouraged me to keep on investigating the historical side of these ingredients.

I wasn't quite able to pin down the oldest so I eventually settled on a humble spice that has a recorded history of 4000 years and is probably one that we use everyday. That spice is Pepper.

Pepper has been a part of our trading past - it's value at one time equalling gold. The peppercorn itself is a bit of a chameleon, it's many colours, not the result of different varieties but of different stages in the peppercorns maturation. Green being the immature peppercorn, black are simply dried green peppercorns and white are produced by allowing the peppercorn to ripen on the vine and then removing it's hard red shell to reveal it's white core. With each stage, a variance in flavour is obtained. White pepper offering a clean flavour whereas black is sharper in aroma and piquancy - green peppercorns are a different beast, texturally softer and milder in taste - they add a delicate spice to sauces.

Once decided on Pepper then it's companion Salt had to come along and with Good Friday looming the obvious dish, in which pepper stars, would be the perfect one to make. That dish is Salt and Pepper Calamari! The warmth of the pepper perfectly compliments the sweet flesh of the calamari.

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Salt and Pepper Calamari

2 medium sized fresh calamari
¼ cup potato flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
2 teaspoons freshly ground salt
2 teaspoons sumac
oil

When choosing calamari I tend to go for small to medium sized as I find the flesh to be more tender and a touch sweeter. You can clean them yourselves or ask your fishmonger to do so - don't throw away the wings or the tentacles!

Open up the tube of your calamari to form a flat surface - there's a line you can follow on the tube itself. Place the flattened tube on your board with the inside facing you. Taking a sharp knife, lightly score the flesh at a diagonal - then repeat in the opposite direction to form a criss cross patter. You then need to cut the tubes into smaller pieces - about two fingers in width - they don't have to be even in size, you actually want to have a bit of variance.

Repeat the criss-cross process on the wings but don't cut them into smaller pieces.

Slice the tentacle ring into 4 - don't worry about the extra long tentacles they will contract during the cooking.

In a bowl mix together the spices then toss in the pieces of calamari - then dump the mixture into a large sieve and shake off the excess flour.

To cook, speed is the key and having the oil at the correct temperature is important. If you have a deep fryer then heat the oil to around 180°C/350°F. Be warned that calamari does tend to spit - especially the tentacles - using a lid will come in handy. Cook only until they are golden and remove to paper towels to drain off any excess oil.

Serve hot with tartare or lemon wedges.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Hot Cross Buns

It's that time again and it's always a most enjoyable experience and this time is no exception. Alicat & Sara's asked us to prepare something involving Easter Breakfast and/or Brunch for their latest Weekend Cookbook Challenge.

I had intended to make the traditional Colomba di Pasqua but I was unable to find any of the proper moulds so I decided to take a leaf from Paalo's English tradition and make the ubiquitous Hot Cross Buns.

Hot Cross Buns are typically eaten on Good Friday (though we have them toasted for breakfast on Easter Sunday), so there's still time to whip up a batch if you are so inclined.

The recipe I'm using comes from "Modern Classics 2" by Donna Hay, though I have made some modifications to the recipe and some of the techniques.

I do have to confess that I dislike mixed peel with a passion so there is none in the batch that I made though it's quantity is listed in the recipe.

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Hot Cross Buns

1 tablespoon dry yeast
½ cup caster sugar
1½ cups lukewarm milk
4¼ cups plain flour, sifted
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
50g melted butter
1 egg
1½ cups sultanas
1/3 cup mixed peel (extremely optional)

Paste for crosses:
Made from 3 parts flour: 2 parts water

Glaze:
Made from 2 parts sugar: 1 part water


Place the yeast, 2 teaspoons of the caster sugar and all of the milk in a bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes to make sure the yeast is activating.

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Sift the flour with the mixed spice and cinnamon. Add this to the yeast mixture along with the butter, remaining sugar, egg and sultanas (and mixed peel if using) - using the dough hook of the mixer and a low speed, mix until a sticky amalgamated dough forms.

Take it out and place on a very lightly flour dusted bench and knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth.

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Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let it sit in a warm place for an hour or until it's doubled in size.

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When doubled in size, place the dough onto the bench and divide into 12 (either by eye or use scales). Roll each portion into a ball and place in a rectangular ovenproof tray, lined with baking paper (this tray is 19 x 30cm). You want a snug fit to encourage the correct shape to form.

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Cover with a towel or loosely placed plastic wrap and put in a warm place to rise again around 30 minutes to an hour. Once risen you can pipe the crosses over the top.

Making the paste for the crosses. The original recipe produces enough paste to pipe hundreds of crosses so I've listed it as a ratio. Mix together 3 tablespoons of plain flour with 2 tablespoons of water until it forms a sticky paste. Place in a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle and starting from the edge of one bun, pipe a straight line along the centre. Repeat this four times on the horizontal and then four times on the vertical. There's no need to be too precious with the piping as it is quite a sticky and difficult paste to work with. Other recipes will have you forming a drier paste and rolling out cross shapes but I find that they are too hard and are usually pulled off rather than eaten.

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Once piped, this is placed in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for 25-35 minutes (once again time is a variant depending on your oven type). You want the buns to be golden brown and well risen.

*Warning: a delightful scent will fill your home causing a sudden increase in appetite

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The final part is the glaze. The original recipe calls for one that involves gelatine and seems a tad convoluted so I've chosen to use the equally effective but simpler, sugar syrup. In a small pan place two tablespoons of sugar and one tablespoon of water and heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid thickens. Brush this hot syrup generously over the tops of the hot buns.

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Either eat them still warm from the oven or toasted with butter.

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