Sunday, December 31, 2006

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Sesame and Almond Nougat

Torrone is a favourite form of nougat but it is slightly fiddly to make so I was quite interested to try a more wholesome version by Ursula Ferrigno that involves sesame seeds, almonds and honey.

You can, if you like toast both the sesame seeds and almonds before making this nougat but I decided to go with a more natural approach and left them untoasted. Either way, I think you might have to double the recipe to keep up with demand!

nougat

Sesame and Almond Nougat
[Makes a 28cm/11 inch square]

200 grams/7oz honey
55 grams/2oz caster sugar
225 grams/8oz sesame seeds
200 grams/7oz blanched almonds, roughly chopped

Prepare a 28cm/11 inch square baking tray (at least 5mm/¼ inch high) - line it with greased baking paper (almond oil is preferred).

Place the honey into a saucepan and gently heat until melted.
Add the sugar and slowly allow to come to boiling point.
Add the sesame seeds and almonds and continue to heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.

Pour this thickened mixture into the prepared tray and flatten it into shape. Let it cool slightly before cutting into small squares, then allow it to cool completely before serving.

nougat

Feel free to help yourself to a piece or two ;)

Tagged with Sweet Food

Friday, December 29, 2006

Chocolate Christmas Tree

Danielle from Habeaus Brûlée is hosting this edition of Sugar High Friday and decided on the theme of Sugar Art.

Now, there's more chocolate than sugar in this but hopefully I've got the art bit covered in this Chocolate Christmas Tree.

Chocolate Christmas Tree© by haalo

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Cheese: King Island Dairy

Back in Tasmania and King Island Dairy for this next cheese - which has got to be one of my favourites.

stormy

King Island Stormy is a washed rind cheese, similar in style to the Pont L'Eveque from Normandy. The one most obvious characteristic you'll notice with this cheese is it's smell. Yes, it stinks but in a nice way. It's not an unpleasant aroma but I'll offer this bit of advice, do not store it in a fridge that is not your own.

It's described as having "a wild aroma", I tend to use the term earthy. It's the type of scent that you will get to used to and I do hope it doesn't put people off because I really want you to try it, just be aware.

stormy

The cheese has a thin white mould that hints to the saffron skin that lies behind. The rind is mild and perfectly edible. You'll also find, which is probably most surprising, that the cheese is creamy, sweet and mild in taste - something you wouldn't have expected based solely on it's aroma. It's a firmish cheese that slices quite well.

It also was awarded Champion Washed Rind Cheese at the 2006 Australian Grand Dairy Awards.

I really do hope that if you have the opportunity that you'll give this cheese a try and maybe you'll love as much as I do.

Information about King Island Dairy can be found in this earlier post

Other King Island Dairy cheese tasted:
Scrubbed Brie
Roaring Forties Blue

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tea: Wolfberry

These days between Christmas and New Years are like the calm before the storm. We've indulged ourselves over the last few days and more than likely, it's to be repeated come New Years Eve. To help bolster our system to cope with the excess, consider the humble Wolfberry.

gojiberry

Wolfberry or Goji Berry is a staple of Chinese traditional medicine and it's one of the most nutrient-rich food you can find. It contains Vitamins B1, B6, C and E, 21 trace elements, 18 amino acids, beta carotene, carotenoids and essential fatty acids. It's said that it can improve vision, enhance the immune system, maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugars and protect the liver (something that becomes a little more important around new years).

The simplest preparation is in a tea - 1 teaspoon of the berries per cup of boiling water and let it infuse for 5 to 10 minutes before drinking. Once you've finished the tea, don't forget that you can also eat the berries - they have a slight smoky and sweet carrot flavour.

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Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

sweet treats


During this festive season, whatever you may be doing or celebrating, I wish you, from my family to yours, a Merry and Safe Christmas.

Thank you also for all the support you've shown this past year - whether in comments, email or otherwise, it's been a true pleasure to share this cooking experience and I look forward to your company in the future.

Best wishes to all!

Haalo

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Coffee: Jasper Coffee

christmas star

Just in time, Jasper Coffee has released a special blend called Christmas Star. It uses Grange and Yemen beans - the Grange is a sweet bean and the Yemen is a natural mocha flavoured bean that gives the blend slight bitter chocolate characteristics.


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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cherry Almond Cakelets

If you liked the look of my mother's birthday cake, then here's the recipe.

Usually this cake would be made with pears, as pears and almonds are one of the great flavour marriages. But since we are in cherry season I've taken advantage of their abundance and included them in this cake.

Of equal importance is the topping - a mix of flaked almonds and sugar and the special extra ingredient Pearl Sugar. Pearl sugar is great as it doesn't melt and keeps it's shape, adding to the crunch of this topping. It's a battle of willpower not to eat all the topping from the cooked cakes.

cakelets

Cherry Almond Cakelets
[Makes 12 cakelets]

300 grams plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
200 grams caster sugar
2 eggs
125ml/½ cup milk
125ml/½ cup melted butter, cooled
1 teaspoon almond essence
1 1/2 cups poached cherries, drained
flaked almonds, caster sugar and pearl sugar, for topping

Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl - then stir in the caster sugar making sure it's well mixed.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, butter and almond essence, then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until just mixed.

Scatter in the drained cherries and then fold these through taking care not to overwork the mixture.

Three quarter fill your moulds then sprinkle over with some flaked almonds and caster sugar and for a little extra crunch, some pearl sugar.

oven ready

oven ready

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden and cooked through. If you feel that they are browning too quickly, lower the temperature.

Place on a wire rack to cool.

cakelet


For this batch I've made 6 cakelets using 6cm/2.5 inch square moulds and 2 stars using 12cm/5 inch diameter moulds - if you like you can use other shaped moulds or even make it as one normal sized cake.

star


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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cherry Champagne Jellies

By now you might be sensing a bit of déjà vu regarding cherry recipes. Am I on a mission to create my very own cherry inspired groundhog day? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Perhaps I just enjoy cherries and want to take full advantage of their bountiful harvest.

For this recipe I've added something a little special in the form of Rosé Champagne which turns a simple jelly into something truly festive and a change from those heavy fruit puddings. You can naturally substitute any good sparkling rosé for the champagne but you really do need to use one that you would drink as the wines flavours are well defined in the jelly.

jelly

Cherry Champagne Jelly
[Makes 6 - using 125ml/½ cup capacity moulds]

250ml/1 cup Rosé Champagne or Rosé sparkling wine
150ml water
75 grams caster sugar
3 Titanium Gelatine sheets
poached cherries, strained and reserve liquid

Place the water and sugar into a pan place on a medium heat - stir until sugar has dissolved. Allow to simmer for about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Place the sheets of gelatine into a bowl of cold water - soak until softened. Remove from water, squeeze to extract any excess water before adding to the sugar syrup. Stir until the sheets have completely dissolved.

Add in the champagne and gently stir - it will bubble up a little.

Pour into a jug and set aside to cool.

For this recipe I've used ½ cup capacity moulds - you can make them larger if you like, it's up to you. This is a good individual sized portion.

It's a good idea to lightly oil your moulds using a neutral flavoured oil to help unmould the jellies.

Place a few of the cherries into the bottom of each dish then cover with the jelly. Put them into the fridge to allow the jelly to partial set. The time required is dependant on the temperature of the jelly you're using.

Add another layer of cherries and cover with with jelly. Return them to the fridge to set.

To unmould, dip the moulds into some hot water then turn them out onto your serving dish. Spoon over with a little of the reserved poached cherry liquid and serve at once with a glass of Rosé Champagne

jellies

They do look like little jewels the way they glisten on the plate - refreshing and not cloyingly sweet, the champagne providing a slight tartness to balance out the dish.

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One star deserves another

star

It's a most Happy Birthday to my Mother - who I really do owe everything to.

What I do today is based on the foundations I have learnt from her. She's a remarkable person who has gone through a lot in her life and I thank her for all that she has done.

I'll quite unbiasedly add that she's the best cook in the universe!

Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Green Curry Fish Cakes

Green Curry Paste just seems to be a perfect match to seafood and these bite sized fishcakes make the perfect finger food - fragrantly spiced they are sure to get your appetite started.

fish cakes

Green Curry Fish cakes
[Makes about 20 small fish cakes]

220 grams firm white fish, skinned, bones removed and cut into rough chunks
1 spring onion/scallion, sliced finely
1 runner bean or 3 green beans, sliced finely (these are raw)
handful fresh coriander, roughly sliced
2-3 tablespoons Green curry paste
1 egg yolk
freshly ground salt and pepper
bread-crumbs

Place the fish into a processor and pulse until almost smooth - it's okay to have small chunks of fish.

Put the fish into a bowl and add the curry paste stirring to combine. Add the spring onion, green bean and coriander, give it another stir then season with a little salt and pepper. Add the egg yolk and mix well. It will probably be a little mushy at this stage, how much, will depend on the type of fish used. Sprinkle in a little bread-crumbs until the mixture firms up slightly.

Using a small ice cream scoop, take little balls of the mixture and release them onto a bread-crumb coated dish. You should get around 20 balls. The ones I've made are about 2.5 cm/1 inch in diameter.

Roll each lightly in the crumbs to form a cylinder, then flatten the tops down to get a cake-like shape. You can store these covered, in the fridge until ready to cook.

Shallow fry or deep fry until golden brown and serve immediately with a little coriander yoghurt on the side.

fishcakes

I'll be submitting this to Kalyn's Holiday Cooking with Herbs as it's a quick and easy appetiser that's ideal for those holiday parties.

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Monday, December 18, 2006

Thai-inspired Green Curry Paste

There's nothing quite like green curry paste - more fragrant than hot, it's an excellent place to start if you're new to Thai flavours.

I would never claim any authenticity to this version but I have tried to combine the necessary elements to create a pretty good facsimile of what you can expect. As with most of these types of pastes, it's the variety of ingredients that bring complexity to the final product.

chillies and galangal

Naturally enough for Green Curry Paste, green chillies are needed. I've used a combination of small green and long green chillies. That odd thing to the right is Galangal - it looks a little like ginger but has a different taste. Where Ginger has a tang, Galangal has citrus notes and in this recipe I will be using both.

Another important ingredient is Thai Basil.

Thai basil

Although it looks like normal basil, one whiff of it's distinctive aroma will immediately tell you it's something totally different. It's also one ingredient you should not substitute with normal basil - so if you don't have access to it, then leave it out.

The other uncommon ingredient is shrimp paste or belacan. There's no other way of saying it, but this is a pungent ingredient. A warning of this comes in the fact that it's usually triple packed and once opened you will need to keep it in a sealed container to stop it's aroma infiltrating your kitchen. In this recipe you'll need to dry fry the shrimp paste which does compound it's scent but persevere and use it as it will make a difference.


green curry paste

Green Curry Paste

2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
6 long green chillies, roughly sliced
6 small green chillies, roughly sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly sliced
1 small red onion, roughly sliced
20 grams lemongrass, sliced
10 grams galangal, peeled and grated
10 grams fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 lime, zested
2 spring onions/scallions, roughly sliced
2 tablespoons Thai basil, roughly sliced
¼ cup fresh coriander, leaves, stems and roots, roughly sliced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oil

Dry fry the ground coriander and cumin until just fragrant. Cool.
Dry fry the shrimp paste until just fragrant. Cool.

In a food processor/blender, place the chillies, garlic cloves, red onions, lemongrass, galangal, ginger and the dry fried ground coriander, cumin and shrimp paste. Process until a rough paste forms then add the lime zest, spring onions, Thai basil, fresh coriander, fish sauce and oil and continue to process until almost smooth. You may need to add a little more oil to get the right consistency.

You can use it now or store it in the fridge in a sealed container under a little oil to stop oxidisation.

This paste scores from 1-10
3chillies.jpg

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holiday Cooking with Herbs



Weekend Herb Blogging has been put on a two week hiatus and replaced by Holiday Cooking with Herbs in which you post recipes you'll like to share for the holiday season. You still have time to submit recipes to Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen where she'll be presenting the great big round-up on December 23rd. Oh, and if you submit something you also get to use that lovely banner designed by Kalyn's brother Rand!

tGlobe Zucchini© by Haalo


It may indeed look like something you'd find hanging on your Christmas tree but this is a variety of Zucchini called Tondo di Piacenza or Globe Zucchini for those that appreciate the obvious.

As soon as I spied them at the farmers' market I knew I just had to have them - they just spoke to me. Their simple elegance would be perfect for a festive occasion. I needed to do something that maintained the integrity of their shape and what better way then to simply stuff them. Next I wanted to bring in some fresh flavours as zucchini can be a bit bland at times and one of my favourite ways of doing that is by using the herb paste Chermoula (if you want to know more about Chermoula just click on the link).

Rather than using the more complex version I posted about earlier, I decided to strip it back to it's most basic form - a combination of fresh coriander, parsley, onion garlic and a touch of smoked paprika. This is used to marinate a fine dice of chicken thigh meat which is then seared and mixed with the hollowed out zucchini flesh to form the basis of the stuffing. Roasted in the oven it's then presented "hat on" to your guests

stuffed globe zucchini© by haalo

Globe Zucchini stuffed with Chermoula Chicken
[Serves 4]

4 Globe Zucchini
2 skinless and boned chicken thighs
1 egg, lightly beaten
breadcrumbs
salt and freshly ground pepper


Chermoula:
20 grams fresh coriander (leaves, stems and roots)
20 grams fresh parsley (leaves and stems)
1 garlic clove, peeled and roughly sliced
1 large red shallot (or very small red onion), peeled and roughly diced
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
freshly ground salt and pepper
olive oil

Make the Chermoula:
Place the fresh coriander, parsley, garlic, onion, and paprika into the bowl of a processor and pulse until roughly chopped. Season with salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and process again - drizzle in a little more olive oil until a thick paste forms.

You'll find that this is probably more than you'll need for this recipe - just store it in the fridge in a sealed container under a cover of olive oil to keep it from discolouring.

Prepare Zucchini:
Evenly Slice to tops from each zucchini - be a bit generous as the top becomes the lid of the dish.

To hollow out the zucchini - use a vegetable knife and cut a cross into the top of the zucchini. Then using the knife connect the outer points of the cross following the curve of the zucchini. Take a teaspoon and ease these loosened bits out - reserving all the flesh as it will be needed in the filling. Then keep digging with the spoon to rasp out the rest of the interior. You want to leave about 2-3 mm of flesh.

It may sound tedious and convoluted but it's actually pretty quick and you'll soon get the hang of it. Don't be put off - the final result is worth it.

Once you've hollowed them all out place them in boiling salted water for about a minute. Then drain and set aside.

Make the filling:
Slice the chicken into a 1-1.5 cm dice - take your cue on the best size from the size of your zucchini. Add 1-2 tablespoons of Chermoula to the diced chicken and let it marinade for half an hour.

Take all the zucchini flesh and roughly chop it. Keep to one side.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan then sauté the marinated chicken in batches over a medium-high heat. You want to quickly brown the chicken then remove it to a dish while you cook the rest. Once the last batch is done, turn down the heat and add the chopped zucchini flesh. You don't want this to brown you just want it to soften and release some of it's liquid. Return the cooked chicken and any juices back the pan and toss through to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary. Place in a bowl and allow to cool.

When cold, add the beaten egg and 1 tablespoon of Chermoula and stir through. You'll need to add some breadcrumbs to help the mixture bond - 1 to 2 tablespoons should be enough to form a soft but not sloppy mixture.

Spoon this mixture into each of the zucchini, push down gently - you don't want to pack it down too hard or the zucchini will crack when they are roasted. Mould the filling so it forms a peak.

stuffed globe zucchini© by haalo

Place the filled zucchini in a baking dish with their lids cut side up beside them. Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in a pre-heated 180°C/350°F oven for 20 minutes or until the filling is heated through and the top has browned.

To serve as a starter - one per person will be more than adequate, though you might find yourself asking for an extra bite of your neighbours.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Singapore Sling

This month's theme for Retro Recipe Challenge hosted by Laura of Laura Rebecca's Kitchen is Boozy Holiday.

I suppose when I think of Christmas the colours green, white and red spring to mind. I then quickly drop green leaving it for that other great excuse to drink holiday, St Patrick's Day. White too falls to the wayside, even though those lusciously thick and creamy drinks are exceedingly tempting, they really aren't suited to the warm weather here.

So I am left with red and the drink that epitomises the colour is the Singapore Sling - you won't be needing to travel to the Long Bar of Singapore's Raffles Hotel for this beverage!

singapore sling© by haalo


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yoghurt: Mungalli Creek

I really need to thank Mellie for directing me towards Mungalli Creek Yoghurt though my path there has left me yearning for a Yoghurt that has been hard to find. I should rephrase that - a particular Yoghurt has been hard to find.

This one - Mungalli Creek Chai with Honey Yoghurt.

chai


It had me addicted from the start - the initial container disappearing before I could even take a photo. Never mind, I thought, I'll get another when I return to the market in a few days time.

On my return, there was none to be found. A situation that would remain the same for another TWO MONTHS!

But like a beacon of hope, it re-appeared just this week, perhaps Christmas has come early for me.

Since it was so hard to find and I'd waited so long I decided I needed to do something special with the Yoghurt - so eyeing the new toy I set about creating something more lasting

frozen yoghurt

Chai Frozen Yoghurt
[Makes 1 litre]

550 grams Chai Yoghurt
250ml/1 cup milk
135 grams caster sugar

Place the ingredients into a jug and whisk well.
Refrigerate for one hour to ensure the mix is well chilled.

To make the frozen yoghurt - just follow the instructions of your ice-cream maker. This will take about 35 minutes.

When done, transfer to a 1 litre container and place in the freezer until ready to use.

bowl

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Wine Blogging Wednesday #28

Culinary Fool is hosting this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday that saw us searching for Sparklers of the non-Champagne variety.

My choice belongs in the Special Sparklers category - Dominique Portet Tasmanian Cuvée 2002

sparkler

Right now, champagne/sparkling wine aficionados might have keeled over at the heresy - yes, that is indeed a crown seal topping this bottle.

seal

Don't let the crown seal lead you to believe that this is anything but an exception Sparkler - the choice was made to eliminate cork taint and to maintain the wines freshness. In the end, maintaining quality is what is really important not the razzmatazz show of popping corks.

The vineyards of Dominique Portet can be found in the Yarra Valley, here in Victoria.

cellar-door

The cellar door is housed in this ivy-covered and decidedly French inspired chateaux.

The Cuvée is a product of a partnership between Dominique and the Sundstrup family - it's made using Dalyrmple vineyard grapes that come from Northern Tasmania. There's excellent pedigree behind this wine as Dominique was responsible for creating the well-known Clover Hill Sparkling Wines.

Made from a combination of 60% Chardonnay 40% Pinot Noir, the wine was tiraged in June 2002 and kept on lees for 3 years before being disgorged in March 2006 with a very light dosage (6% 2001 Reserve wine).

After this period on lees you'll immediately notice those fresh yeast aromas tinged with some apple notes. In the glass, there's a fine bead. Citrus elements give it good acid levels that combine with it's age to provide complex flavours and a lingering finish.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Eggstra! Eggstra!

eggs

When confronted by such a sight, first thoughts might be of sympathy towards the poor chicken that had the misfortune to lay such an egg.

But that would be misplaced as the culprit responsible for that egg is a Goose and surprisingly, it's not golden.

There's only one place I've found Goose eggs and for those in Melbourne, you'll need to go to Farmers' Market at the Collingwood Children's Farm to find them.

To give you an idea of their size - the yolk and white weighed 145 grams or just over 5 ounces - you'll need to adjust recipes to take this into consideration.

Goose eggs share properties found in duck eggs - higher fat and richer yolks make them the choice for baking. You might also like to take Michel Roux's advice and use them for Quiche.

I decided that the KISS approach was best and opted to make an omelette filled with rocket (arugula), cheese, tomato and freshly carved ham. I did stray a bit from the simple approach and added a little fresh ricotta to the beaten egg - it's not everyday that we get to enjoy these beautiful eggs. The egg might not have been golden but the omelette certainly was!

omelette

Goose Egg Omelette
[Makes 1 omelette]

1 goose egg
50 grams ricotta
salt and freshly ground white pepper
butter, for cooking

Push the ricotta through a mesh sieve, then add the egg. Whisk to combine then season with freshly ground salt and white pepper.

Heat a skillet with a generous knob of butter and when the butter has almost melted, add the egg mixture. Let this cook for 10 seconds then start pushing the edges towards the centre. Keep doing this and tilting the pan to let the uncooked egg run to the edges.

After a little while you'll find that the top will still be squishy and moist but there's no egg run-off. Shake the skillet to make sure the omelette isn't sticking.

Because I like my omelette on the soft and squishy side, it's at this stage that I'll start adding the filling. If you like your omelette less runny then cover the skillet and while still shaking the pan, let the surface dry out.

I've folded this omelette rather than rolling so I placed the fillings on one side of the omelette. First a little grated mozzarella followed by a generous handful of rocket leaves, diced tomatoes and roughly ripped pieces of ham then a little more grated mozzarella.

Fold the empty half over the filling and jiggle the omelette towards the centre of the pan. Cover the skillet, turning down the heat to allow the filling to warm. After a minute, flip the omelette, cover and cook for another 30 seconds or until the cheese has melted.

Slide onto a plate and eat at once!


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Monday, December 11, 2006

Iced Mulled Wine


The theme for this month's Mixology Monday, hosted by The Spirit World is Drinks for a Festive Occasion.

While eggnog and mulled wine are the season's favourites it's probably not really appropriate for our summer weather. Rather than forsake mulled wine why not just chill it?

iced mulled wine© by haalo

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #62

Pookah at What's Cooking in Carolina? is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging.

Today I'll be using one of the most elegant and distinctive citrus flavourings you can find - Lemon Verbena.

lemon verbena

Lemon Verbena is a deciduous tree, native to South America. It's lancet shaped leaves range from pale to dark green and to the touch they feel slightly sticky and a bit rough. It's lemon aromas released by even a soft brush of the leaves. It's not surprising that it's highly prized in aromatherapy. It's also thought to help with digestion and fever relief.

One of it's most popular use is in Lemon Verbena Tea - simply infuse a handful of fresh leaves with almost boiling water but I have something else in mind.

The inspiration for this recipe is three-fold - first the weather, when the mercury is nudging 40°C (that's over a hundred) your mind starts looking for ways to cool down. You aren't helped by Locatelli's newest book (it's worthy of it's own post) and it's amazing chapter on all things ice-cream. It's influence driving you to distraction whereupon you finally purchase that ice-cream maker you've had your eye on.

With apologies to those in cooler climes, I just had to make this!

sorbet

Watermelon & Lemon Verbena Sorbet
[Makes around 1 litre of sorbet]

500 mls/2 cups watermelon juice, chilled

220 grams/1 cup caster sugar
250 mls/1 cup water
handful of lemon verbena leaves

Make the sugar syrup:
Place the sugar and water into a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved then add the lemon verbena leaves. Let it gently simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge until ready to use. Keep the leaves in the syrup. Strain just before using.

Make the sorbet:
Place the watermelon juice into a jug and add the strained sugar syrup. Stir well and pour into the bowl of the ice-cream maker - following manufacturers instructions. This took about 30 minutes.

Transfer into a freezer proof dish and place it in the freezer for 2 hours before serving.

The mix can be used without an ice-cream maker. Just follow the instructions for the Mint Sorbet.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

More Zucchini Flowers

A few weeks back I made Stuffed Zucchini Flowers using female flowers - today I've managed to find male zucchini flowers

boy flowers

The most obvious difference is the absence of the baby zucchini though that stalk is perfectly edible. The other differences are more subtle - you'll find that the flower petals don't part as easily as their female counterparts and removal of the stamen takes a bit more effort. It's a balancing act to not damage the flower.

Though if you decide not to eat them they do make a nice little posy!

posy

With this batch I've modified the earlier stuffing ingredients and added some finely diced sweet potato and sage.

stuffed flowers

Sweet Potato Stuffed Zucchini Flowers
[Makes 12]

12 male zucchini flowers, stamen removed

Filling:
100 grams ricotta
20 grams grated Parmigiano Reggiano
80 grams finely cubed sweet potato, boiled
4 fresh sage leaves, finely sliced
freshly ground white pepper and salt

Batter:
½ cup plain flour
½ teaspoon dry yeast
¾ cup warm water

Make the batter:
Sift the flour into a bowl, sprinkle in the dry yeast and stir well with a whisk to amalgamate. Pour in the water and continue whisking until a smooth paste forms. Let this rest half an hour before using.

Make the filling:
With the sweet potato, it's important that they are cut to a very small cube - they do have to go inside the flower so use that as your guide. Once they are boiled and drained, sprinkle over with the finely sliced sage, salt and pepper and stir through.
Heat a little oil in a frypan and when hot add the sweet potato and sage. Sauté until the surface has crusted and is slightly golden. Turn out onto paper towels to remove any excess oil and allow to cool.

Place the ricotta in a bowl with the grated Parmigiano Reggiano - stir well to amalgamate. Add the cooled sweet potato and fold through.

Take spoonfuls of the filling and shape into a tight cylinder. Gently ease the petals apart and insert the filling, fold the petals back around the filling and give them a little twist. Be careful not to overfill - only fill the bulbous part, stopping before the petals segment.

Once all the flowers are filled, store them in the fridge until ready to cook.

Use a saucepan that's just wide enough fit the flowers. Heat until the oil reaches about 150°C - test with a few drops of batter, it should start to sizzle and float to the surface.

Hold onto the stalk and dip it into the batter, pull it out, give it a shake to remove any excess batter and then dip into the oil, flower first. Your fingertips will get a bit of batter on them but this is the best way to do it. Only cook 1 to 2 at a time - they should take about 1 minute. Make sure the oil is deep enough that the flowers can roll around and brown on all sides.

Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.

cooked

Inside the sweet potato are like little jewels set amid the oozing, warm cheese - the batter adding a crunch as you bite into the delicate flowers.

inside

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cherry Custard Scrolls

It's still Cherry Season and the quality hasn't let up so I'm still finding ways to utilise this most delicious fruit.

I will be killing two birds with one stone, so to speak, as I'll take the opportunity to try a rich yeast dough recipe that's been tempting me from one of the latest acquisitions, Artisan Breads & Pastries by Avner Laskin.

I'll be combining the dough with thick egg custard and those poached cherries to create these tempting Cherry Custard Scrolls.

scrolls

Cherry Custard Scrolls
[Makes about 20]

Sweet Yeast Dough:
⅔ cup cold milk
64 grams/2¼ ounces fresh yeast
1 large egg
150 grams/⅔ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
385 grams/3½ cups plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
75 grams /⅓ cup butter, cut into small cubes, softened

2 cups custard - use your favourite egg custard recipe, it needs to be cooled and thick
1 cup poached cherries, drained and juices reserved
1 egg, beaten
icing sugar, for glaze

Make Sweet Yeast Dough:

Place the milk, yeast, egg, sugar, vanilla and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Beat for 3 minutes on low speed
Add the salt and beat for 7 minutes on medium speed.
Add the butter bit by bit, continue beating for 3 minutes.

The dough is quite soft and you may need to add a little flour to get a knead-able consistency. Form into a ball and place in a bowl - cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 1 hour.

You'll need a well floured surface to turn out the dough. Cut the dough in half.

Take one half and press it down using your palms to make a rectangle. Roll it out to form a rectangle approximately 20x30cm (8x12 inches). It's good to do this on a flexible surface as it will make forming the scroll a lot easier.

Cover with 1 cup of custard, smoothing it across the pastry with a palette knife. Dot this with half of the cherries.

With the longest side facing you, roll the dough to form a cylinder.

Cut into 11 slices using a non-serrated knife and place them flat side down on a baking paper lined tray, leaving a little room for spreading.

Repeat with the second portion of dough.

Brush each slice with the beaten egg and bake in a preheated oven 180°C/350°F for 15 minutes or until golden.

Move the scrolls onto a wire rack to cool.

Make a glaze, using reserved liquid from the poached cherries and icing sugar - drizzle over the cooled scrolls. Let this glaze harden slightly before eating...if you can wait that long!

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cheese: Red Hill Sorrento Picnic

This is another cheese from Red Hill Cheese - you can find out more about the dairy in my earlier post.

sorrento picnic

This is the Sorrento Picnic - a cow's milk cheese made in the cheddar style. It's sold as a distinctive mini-truckle, in both whole rounds and halves.

mini-truckle

It's quite a thin rind - and depending on maturation state, it can go from a lovely white to a beige tinged rind as this one. The more mature the cheese the darker the rind.

open

Inside you'll find this beautiful golden cheese - it's semi-hard, quite easy to cut with a smooth texture, it certainly doesn't crumble when you slice it. You might be able to make out the lighter coloured core - it's still a month away from full maturation.

It has a fresh, sweet aroma, more asparagus rather than mushroom notes - smooth and creamy in the mouth with a mild taste that lingers. It does have a slightly acidic finish which adds to it's clean flavour.

This would be really nice served with fresh dates.

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