Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cream - Elgaar Dairies

cream

There's something about this gorgeous little bottle that I just can't resist - it's a true bonus that cream held within is so good.

This is the Elgaar Dairies Organic Table Cream - you might recall a few months back that I used their Double Cream for the ultimate act of dairy indulgence. Where that came in at a hefty 52% butterfat this comes in a more reasonable 38%.

inside

You'll notice that as this isn't homogenised it does separate and the butterfat rises to the neck of the bottle - you'll have to give it a good shake to incorporate this (that's if you don't take a spoon and scoop it out for a quick hit - not that I would ever do that).

This is a good pure cream with no thickeners or gums added and I tend to use it when I want whipped cream for desserts - recently it topped the Australia Day Pavlova. There's no need to add any sugars to the cream as it naturally has a sweetness to it's taste.

If you like a little more information about Elgaar Dairies you can find it in this earlier post.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Chocolate - Tava Roasted Cocoa Nibs

Cocoa Nibs are one of those things you read about but never get around to finding, at least that's the case here in Australia. So when Emily from Chocolate in Context posted about a local company offering cocoa beans and nibs I just had to go ahead and get some.

roasted nibs

Tava sources their cocoa from Vanuatu and I highly recommend visiting their website and reading about the philosophy behind their endeavours rather than just having me waffle on about them. You'll also note that sell whole cocoa beans and unroasted cocoa nibs along with their own dark chocolate.

From the picture, you can probably see that they look quite like cracked coffee beans. In fact, I would say that in texture they are very similar. It's in the taste that they differ - a strong pure chocolate flavour. If you've eaten those chocolate coated coffee beans you'll know what I mean.

My first experiment with them as been the Mocha Cupcakes and I was most impressed about how they tasted and how they behaved. What I loved most is that unlike chocolate buds, they don't melt, they retrain their integrity but as I noted in the cupcake post, they do lose their powdery characteristics and become smoother. It's just so interesting to have these crunchy hits of chocolate. I certainly can see myself using them in the future.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #67

Weekend Herb Blogging returns home to Melbourne where Ed from Tomato is our host. What better time to feature tomatoes!

tomatoes

These wonderfully ripe examples are Roma Tomatoes. It's amazing to think that it wasn't until the 18th century that tomatoes had gained acceptance in Italy - nowadays they are so ingrained in the culture. The reason for the slow uptake is that the plant is a member of the deadly nightshade and so it was thought to be poisonous.

Tomatoes these days are being heralded as a potential disease buster due to the presence of Lycopene. It's actually one of the few plants where cooking actually increases the Lycopene content. Lycopene is an anti-oxidant and is thought to help lower the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Tomatoes are also high in Vitamins C and A and contain good levels of dietary fibre along with iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, phosphorous, riboflavin and thiamine.

For this week's recipe I'll be bringing together two of my favoured creations from local chefs - from Raymond Capaldi the Basil Ice Cream I posted about earlier this week and from Shannon Bennett, a cold pressed tomato soup.

The pressed tomato soup is almost a standard at Vue de Monde though of late it's been usurped by a bubbling dry ice infused lemon verbena lemonade. Still, I look fondly on this palette cleanser. It's quite an unusual experience the first time you have it as it's presented to you as a clear liquid in a white cup. With the first sip you are overwhelmed by the essence of tomato. It's an experience for the mind as well.

The version I've made isn't as clear as you'll get in the restaurant, mainly due to laziness on my part but I feel it works well in the structure and appearance of this dish. I've also slightly modified the ingredients to produce something less savoury - the original recipe contains garlic, Worcestershire and Tabasco.

As flavours go, pairing tomato and basil is a winner however it's done - in this cleanser a small ball of basil ice cream is floated amongst the chilled tomato broth in something that should appeal to all your senses.

cleanser

Tomato and Basil Cleanser

Cold-pressed Tomato Soup
1 kg ripe Roma tomatoes
25 grams caster sugar
25 ml Champagne vinegar
1 cup cold water
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Basil ice cream balls, to serve

Place the sugar and vinegar into a small saucepan and bring to the boil - then reduce by two-thirds to form a thick syrup. Set to one side.

Cut the tomatoes in half and remove the seeds and excess liquid from them by just squeezing them in your hand. Chop roughly before placing into a blender with the water and a little salt and pepper. Blend until smooth.

Line a fine mesh strainer with muslin place over a bowl - pour in the blended tomato and allow to slowly filter through. Place it in the fridge and let it go for about 12 hours.

To get a clearer result, just re-filter the strained liquid.

Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Assemble dish:
Make sure the basil ice-cream balls are as cold as possible. Pre-forming them helps retard the melting.

Place a ball into your serving dish and gently pour in a little of the cold tomato broth, try not to pour it over the ice-cream.

Serve at once.

cleanser


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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Hay Hay It's Donna Day #9

Tami from Running with Tweezers is hosting this edition of Hay Hay It's Donna Day and decided on the uplifting theme of Soufflé.

With a love for coffee, I couldn't think of anything better than a cup of Coffee Soufflé!

souffle

Coffee Soufflé
[Serves 4]

125ml milk
60ml espresso coffee
50 grams caster sugar
25 grams butter
25 grams cornflour/cornstarch
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon caster sugar, extra

Preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F - place an oven tray in the oven and let this heat up too. When it comes to cooking your soufflés place them on this heated tray to ensure they maximise their exposure to heat, which will in turn, help them rise.

Prepare the moulds:
Butter your moulds using upward strokes - this helps to guide your soufflé to the heavens. Then drop a spoonful of caster sugar into the mould, start tilting and turning the mould to ensure it's completely coated. Remove any excess sugar.

Prepare the custard:
Place the milk, coffee and sugar into a small saucepan - stir to dissolve the sugar and let come to a near boil. Set to one side.
Place the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat - allow to melt before adding the cornflour. Whisk until smooth before adding the milk mixture. Continue to whisk until thickened then remove from heat.
Allow to cool slightly before adding the egg yolks - it's most important to stir vigourously at this stage as you don't want to cook the eggs. You should have a thick glossy mixture.
Set this aside to cool.

Prepare the egg whites:
Whisk the egg whites until soft peak forms then add the extra tablespoon of caster sugar - continue whisking until glossy.

Make the soufflé
Place a quarter of the egg-white mixture into the cooled custard and stir well to slacken the mix. Add the remaining egg whites and gentle fold in trying to keep as much air in the mix as possible.

Spoon this into your moulds - filling about three-quarters full. Use your finger to create an indentation between the edge of the mould and the filling - this helps to concentrate the rise.

Place on the oven tray and cook for about 10 minutes - actually cooking time will depend on the size of the moulds used. Keep the oven light on so you can check on their progress without opening the door.

Once cooked, serve at once!

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Australia Day Pavlova

What better way to celebrate Australia Day with that great Australian invention, Pavlova¹ !

Topped with lashings of pure whipped cream and slices of fresh ripe mango that have been bathed in a light kaffir lime leaf syrup, there's plenty to go round to help celebrate this Australia Day.

pavlova

Mango Pavlova
[Makes 1 20cm pavlova]

6 egg whites
275 grams caster sugar
6 teaspoons cornflour, sifted
1 teaspoon white vinegar
250mls pure cream, whipped to medium peak ( I used Elgaar Dairies Organic Table Cream)
1 large mango, peeled and sliced
½ cup kaffir lime leaf syrup

Make the Kaffir Lime Leaf Syrup
Take equal measures of caster sugar and water and 5 finely shredded kaffir lime leaves - simmer of a medium heat until sugar dissolved and mixture thickens slightly. Remove from heat and let it infuse until cold.

Make the Pavlova
Whisk the egg-whites until soft peaks form - then add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Make sure the sugar has been absorbed before adding the next. This will take at least 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the cornflower and vinegar over the meringue and fold through until just amalgamated.

Pipe or spoon the meringue out to form a 20cm/8 inch circle - flatten the top out (this will be filled once the meringue has cooked). You can be as precise or rustic as you like - it all tastes the same.

Place the pavlova in a preheated 120°C/250°F oven for 1 hour 30 minutes - the aim is not to colour the pavlova but to dry it out while leaving the interior marshmallow soft. If it starts to colour, turn the oven down.

When cooked, prop open the oven door with a spoon and let the pavlova cool in the oven. It will most likely sink and even crack - that's fairly normal.

Finish the Pavlova:
Toss the mango slices through the kaffir lime leaf syrup.

Spoon the whipped cream onto the top of the pavlova, filling any indentation that has formed.
Top with the mango slices.

Serve immediately - or if storing in the fridge, make sure it's in a sealed container as the pavlova will absorb any fridge odours.

¹ No discussion of the origin of Pavlova will be entered into as I will simply close my eyes and go la la la la. So there!

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mocha Cupcakes

It's hard to go past the combination of coffee and chocolate so why not bring them together in a cupcake. This creation is for a Cupcake Round-Up being hosted by Vanilla Garlic and Cupcake Bakeshop.

Rather than introduce chocolate in the form of cocoa powder or chocolate buds I've used roasted cocoa nibs. I had yet to use them but quite enjoyed their unadulterated chocolate flavour and felt they shared a true kinship with coffee beans.

cupcakes

Mocha Cupcakes
[Makes 6]

125 grams caster sugar
125 grams softened butter
2 eggs
125 grams self-raising flour, sifted
60ml espresso coffee
25 grams roasted Cocoa nibs

Coffee Cream Cheese Frosting
20 grams butter, softened
60 grams cream cheese, softened
15ml espresso coffee
150 grams pure icing sugar

chocolate coated coffee beans, for decoration

Place the sugar and butter into a mixer and beat until thick and creamy.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and then add one yolk at a time, beating slowly so the mix doesn't curdle. When both yolks are amalgamated then slowly add the whites - increase the speed when all the egg is added to ensure an even mix.

Add half the sifted flour and coffee and beat on a low speed until mixed through then add remaining flour and coffee, beating until until just incorporated.

Stir through the roasted cocoa nibs.

Fill 6 cupcake moulds three-quarters full with the mixture and place in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

Cool on a wire rack.

Make the frosting:
Place the butter and cream cheese into a small bowl and beat until creamy - add the coffee and continue to beat. On a low speed start adding the icing sugar a spoonful at a time, beating well to ensure a smooth and creamy result.

Finish the cakes:
Spread a generous dollop of frosting onto each cooled cupcake and top with a chocolate coated coffee bean. Place in the fridge to set.

cupcake

Inside you'll see a lovely coffee coloured cake resplendent with speckles of cocoa nibs. It's quite interesting to note the change in the taste of the nibs - the cooking making them easier to eat and eliminating their powdery characteristics. You end up with crunchy hits of pure chocolate amongst the coffee. The perfect mocha experience.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Basil Ice Cream

basil

No, that isn't a typo nor is it as wacky as it might sound. After all basil is part of the mint family and no-one gives a second thought to mint ice-cream.

My first taste of Basil Ice Cream was at one of our favourite restaurants, Fenix and I've been hooked ever since. So recently when their recipe became available I knew I just had to make it. Armed with the trusty Gelateria and the freshest of basil it was full churn ahead.

The recipe itself is the height of simplicity - the end product is so unbelievably creamy it's hard to believe that all comes from the use of yoghurt. There aren't any eggs or cream in this mix. The process is threefold - make a sugar syrup and cool; blend the basil leaves, yoghurt and syrup until smooth and then strain through muslin. After that, it's all down to the ice-cream maker. The end result is a vibrant green ice cream that will have your tastebuds dancing.

basil ice cream

Basil Ice Cream

140 grams water
150 grams caster sugar
40 grams glucose
360 grams plain yoghurt (I used Mededith Dairy Sheeps milk Yoghurt)
70 grams fresh basil leaves
5 grams citric acid (or the juice of 1 lemon)

Place the water, caster sugar and glucose in a saucepan over a medium heat - stir well to dissolve the sugar and then let the mixture come to the boil.
Remove from heat and let it cool.

When cold, place the syrup along with the basil, yoghurt and citric acid into a blender and blend until smooth and the mix is a bright green.

Pass this through a muslin lined strainer and then put it through the ice-cream maker following manufacturer's directions.

It will take between 25-30 minutes to churn.

When done, pour into a sealed container and place in the freezer for a few hours before serving.

basil ice cream


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Cheese: Holy Goat

Time to return to Holy Goat and visit another cheese from their range - this time a Fromage Frais.

fromage frais

Cheese: Holy Goat Fromage Frais
Location: Sutton Grange Organic Farm, Victoria

Fromage Frais means "fresh cheese" and in this case it refers to a soft goats milk curd. It's made in a similar manner to cheese but once the rennet is added the curds are not allowed to set, instead they are agitated to give a texture and appearance somewhat like yoghurt.

inside

The first thing you'll notice, as is the case with goat cheese, is that it's very white. It has a look of being quite pure and clean.

Tastewise, it has a slight tang with those goat characteristics but it would equally at home in a savoury or sweet situation.

This cheese is also low in saturated fats.

dollop


It has good holding characteristics and is just perfect for slathering on bread - try it on a thick slice of toasted brioche with raspberry jam.

Other ideas: as part of the filling for Stuffed Zucchini Flowers; use it in dips; add to cheesecake filling; toss through cooked pasta to form part of the sauce. I'm sure you can come up many more ideas.

Information about Holy Goat can be found in this earlier post.

Other Holy Goat cheese tasted:
Mature Veloute
Ripe Pandora

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Chermoula Chicken Tagine




Andrew from Spittoon Extra is hosting the inaugural Waiter There's Something in My...and the something turned out to be Stew.



Just because it's summer it doesn't mean that we can't enjoy stews - I just didn't really want to make something overly heavy or stodgy. So I took my cue from warmer climes elsewhere in the world and conjured up a Chicken Tagine. With a mix of vegetables and the heady aroma of Chermoula this stew can be whipped up in less than an hour.

chicken tagine

Chermoula Chicken Tagine

4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin left on
1 cup Chermoula
1 red onion, roughly diced
1 large zucchini, cut into large cubes
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 carrots, peeled and cut on the diagonal
1 quarter preserved lemon, flesh removed, skin finely sliced
4 fresh dates, pitted and sliced into quarters
handful toasted blanched almonds, for serving

Place the chicken thighs in a bowl and smother completely with chermoula - ensure both sides have been coated with the paste. Let this sit while you prepare the vegetables.

The vegetables given are only a guide - add and subtract to your liking.
It's important that you cut each vegetable so they will take the same time to cook - soft vegetables can be cut into larger pieces than hard vegetables.

Heat a tablespoon of oil with a tablespoon of butter in an ovenproof pan or if you have it a tagine. When the butter has melted and sizzling add the chicken thighs - be careful to remove the excess chermoula as we don't want it to burn, we'll be using the remaining chermoula later on. It's important to brown both sides of the chicken. When done remove from the pan and place on a plate.

Add the onions and let these sauté and soften for a few minutes before adding the carrots. Toss these well before adding the sweet potato and finally the zucchini. Cook for a couple of minutes before returning the chicken to the pan.

Add about a cup of hot water to the chermoula and pour this into the pan. Then add the sliced lemon rind and dates - stirring them into the mixture.

Place the lid on and allow to simmer for 30-45 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are soft.

Before serving, mix through a handful of toasted blanched almonds.

chicken tagine

A perfect accompaniment is plain Couscous.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Sugar High Friday #27

David Lebovitz is hosting this month's Sugar High Friday and naturally enough Chocolate was involved - the theme chosen was Chocolate by Brand.

I've gone the white chocolate route - opting for Lindt White Couverture. It's one of the few white chocolates I don't find overbearingly sweet. To match our summery days I wanted to make something a little lighter and this White Chocolate Mousse is the perfect fit. I've also added a little surprise at the bottom of each glass - poached cherries, the perfect companion to white chocolate.

mousse

White Chocolate Mousse
[Serves 4]

120 grams White Lindt couverture, broken into small pieces
2 egg yolks
2 egg whites
50 grams softened butter
3 teaspoons icing sugar
16 poached cherries, well drained

Place the chocolate into a bowl and place over a pot of boiling water - stirring to ensure an even melting. Remove it from the heat once it's completely melted and smooth.

Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well to incorporate. Then beat in the softened butter. The mixture will stiffen and then relax to give a smooth and glossy consistency.

Whip the egg-whites until soft peaks form - add the icing sugar and continue whipping until incorporated.

Take a quarter of the egg-whites and stir into the chocolate mixture to slacken the mix. Then fold in the remaining egg-whites using a large spoon. Use a figure eight cutting motion to keep as much air in the mix.

Take your serving dishes and place 4 drained poached cherries into each - then cover completely with the mousse mixture. Smooth the mixture by just tapping the bottom of the dish against the table.

Cover and place in the fridge to set.

Take the mousse from the fridge about 15 minutes before you wish to serve them.

mousse

Tastewise, it's creamy and not overly sweet, a little like a good vanilla ice-cream, feather light in the mouth and when you dig a little, you find the hidden treasure of cherries.


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Sunday, January 21, 2007

A Taste of Terroir

Anna from Anna's Cool Finds has thought up quite a cool event where she asks us to search for our own Taste of Terroir.

Australia is well know for our seafood and after much contemplation I finally settled upon one of it's finest products, Bluefin Tuna.

tuna

Southern Bluefin is commercially farmed around Port Lincoln in South Australia and in the space of 15 years has grown to be our largest farmed seafood industry.

A majority of this tuna is destined for the Japanese market - it's particularly well regarded for it's higher fat levels, a most sort after trait for Sashimi.

A wonderful piece of tuna such as this just sings with freshness from it's jewelled glow to it's melt in the mouth texture. It speaks clearly of its pure waters and absolute care.

When looking for the best way to present this fish I turned to Justin North's Bécasse. Through the pages you are introduced to people who not only strive to produce the best, but strive to produce something that we can say is uniquely ours. Within every ingredient, a regard for it's place of origin is at the forefront.

The dish I've chosen is Tuna Sashimi with Pickled Daikon, Cucumber and Baby Coriander - I've made minor changes in regard to plating and those are reflected in the recipe that follows.

dish

Tuna Sashimi with Pickled Daikon, Cucumber and Baby Coriander
[Serves 4 as a starter]

400 grams Bluefin Tuna
Pickled Daikon
1 small Lebanese cucumber
2 small red radish
handful of fresh baby coriander leaves
juice of ½ a lemon
extra virgin olive oil
Murray Valley Pink salt (or Fleur de Sel)
freshly ground white pepper

It's most important that you only slice the fish when you are ready to serve the dish. You'll need to have all the components prepared and ready for plating.

Peel the cucumber and then slice into fine ribbons. Slice the red radish into fine discs. You can use a swivel peeler or mandolin for this.
Drain the pickled daikon (reserve the liquid).

Toss the cucumber ribbons and red radish discs with a spoonful of pickling liquid - season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice.

To Plate:

Slice the tuna evenly into 16 pieces - arrange four slices to a plate. Intermingle with cucumber and daikon ribbons. Top each tuna slice with radish discs then drizzle the whole lot in a little extra virgin olive oil and a touch of lemon juice. Scatter baby coriander leaves randomly over the plate and serve immediately.

dish

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Pickled Daikon

This recipe is part of "A Taste of Terroir"

Daikon

In Japanese, Daikon means "large root" and it is a mild flavoured, white radish. Appearance wise, it looks quite like a large and heavy carrot. When choosing look for ones that are firm with a nice taut skin. You should always peel them before using as the skin can be bitter.

Most commonly they are steamed or boiled or added to slow-cooked stews where they will act like sponges and absorb all the flavours. They can also be served raw - shredded as an accompaniment to many traditional Japanese dishes.

Pickling, as is done in this recipe is another traditional Japanese Method. On a side note, if you wish to tint your daikon to give it a pink colour, just add a few red Shiso leaves to the pickling mixture and it will naturally colour the daikon.

pickled daikon

Pickled Daikon

200 grams Daikon
100ml Sake
50ml Mirin
500ml water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar

Peel and slice the daikon into thin ribbons.

Place the sake, mirin, water, sugar and salt into a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring to ensure the solids are dissolved.

Add the daikon ribbons, making sure they are all under the liquid and let it come back to a simmer.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the daikon to infuse for 20 minutes.

Store in a sealed glass jar and place in the fridge to chill.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #66

Scott from Real Epicurean is this weeks host of Weekend Herb Blogging.

Once again, my find comes from one of my favourite farmers market stalls. The hydroponics stall is usually my second stop of the day (jumbo egg man the first) and it's here that I pick up just the freshest and best bunches of living herbs and vegetables. This week sorrel formed part of my haul.

sorrel

This is common sorrel otherwise known as spinach dock. It's a perennial herb whose leaves have a sharp and somewhat acidic, lemon flavour. This flavour comes from the presence of oxalic acid (also found in high levels in rhubarb leaves which is why they shouldn't be eaten). If you have kidney or bladder stones or rheumatic conditions you should probably avoid sorrel.

You can add younger leaves in small quantities to salad to provide contrast, or as I'll be doing here, turning it into a soup. I've applied the same principles used in the zucchini velouté and really simplified the soup to make the ingredients the focus. To soften the sorrel I've introduce a sweet element in the form of fresh peas to create quite a refreshing little starter.

soup sip

Sorrel and Pea Soup Sip
[Makes 6 sips]

100 grams fresh sorrel leaves, picked weight without stems, washed and drained
1 leek, white onion, cut into small dice
1 cup fresh/frozen peas
salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
fresh cream

Place a little oil and butter into a saucepan and gently heat - when the butter has melted add the diced leek and let it slowly soften without colouring.

Add the peas and let them sauté for a few minutes. Roughly shred the sorrel leaves and add them to the pan. They will begin to wilt and discolour fairly quickly - add about 1/3 cup of water and continue to cook, on the lowest simmer until the peas are tender.

Use a wand/stick blender to puree the soup - taste and season with salt and pepper as required. Add 1/3 cup of cream and blend again until smooth and well incorporated. Return to the stove and let it slowly come back to temperature. As I'll be serving this as a sip I don't want this to be too hot - I want it to be just warmed through.

Pour into glasses and top with a drop of cream.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

Orchid Cupcakes

While looking back over the past year I realised that I hadn't made any cupcakes. So I decided to remedy that situation immediately and set about looking for inspiration.

As an Australian, I think we've all grown up with the Australian Women's Weekly and their enormous library of cookbooks. For their range, quality and approachability - you just know the recipes will work and that all the information is there - they really can't be beat.

This recipe, which ended up being this blog's birthday (cup)cake is taken from AWW's Cupcakes - if you are a cupcake fanatic, then you really should get this book.

cupcakes

Orchid Cupcakes
[Makes 6 large or 12 regular]

Lemon cream cheese cake
90 grams softened butter
90 grams softened cream cheese
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind
150 grams/(2/3) cup caster sugar
2 eggs
50 grams /(1/3) cup self-raising flour, sifted
75 grams/½ cup plain flour, sifted

Lemon cream cheese frosting
30 grams softened butter
80 grams softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
240 grams/ 1½ cups pure icing sugar

Decorations
fresh orchids, or your favourite flower
tea-lights or small candles

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F and line your muffin pan with paper cases.

Place the butter, cream cheese, lemon rind, sugar and eggs into the bowl of a mixer and beat until light and fluffy.

Sift the flours together and then add to the mixture - beat on a low speed until just combined. Spoon out into the paper cases making sure you smooth out the surface.

If making large cupcakes, bake for about 25 minutes - small cupcakes will take about 25 minutes. When done, place them on a wire rack to cool.

Make the frosting:
Place the butter, cream cheese and rind into a bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar a spoonful at a time, beating well to ensure the sugar has amalgamated into the frosting.

Finish the cakes:
Using a palette knife spread the frosting over the cooled cakes - I like to leave a rough surface by pulling up on the knife to leave wave marks. Place in the fridge to set.

cupcakes

When ready to serve - place a tea-light/candle in the centre and arrange the orchids (or your favourite flowers) around it.

cupcakes

While the flowers and the candles are frivolous, the cupcake itself is more than delicious enough to be able to stand on it's own with a heavenly lemon scent that pervades both cake and frosting.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Blog Party #18

It's Blog Party time - and this month Stephanie from Dispensing Happiness decided the theme would be Black and White.

lamingtons cocktail

On Offer:
Lamingtons
Blackberry Delight

Be sure to check out Stephanie's site on Saturday for the complete menu!

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Lamingtons

This is part of Blog Party #18:Black and White.

With the theme of black and white there really was only one thing I could make - that classic of the Australia kitchen (and don't be believing the claims by the Scots or the New Zealanders that they invented them), the Lamington. It is, after all, the ultimate white and blackish sweet treat.

In its simplest form, the Lamington is basically a sponge cake that is cut into small squares, then dipped in a thin chocolate icing before being rolled in desiccated coconut and left to set.

Variations will see the squares sandwiched with jam and/or cream before being dipped and coated.

For the blog party I've decided to present lamingtons in a slightly modified form. I've used a small pyramid silicon mould sheet to make bite sized pyramid lamingtons and for comparison I also made some larger pyramid lamingtons. Naturally you can use this recipe to make traditionally shaped lamingtons - the choice is up to you!

1-DSC_9936.jpg

Lamingtons
[Makes about 48 small pyramids or 12 large pyramids]

For the sponge cake:
3 duck eggs (chicken eggs are fine) at room temperature
110 grams caster sugar
110 grams self raising flour, triple sifted
2 tablespoons milk
For the chocolate icing:
1 cup pure icing sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
boiling water

desiccated coconut, for coating

Make the sponge cake:
Place the eggs into the bowl of your mixer and whisk until thick and creamy. Sprinkle in the sugar a tablespoon at a time - make sure the sugar is dissolved before adding the next spoonful.

Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add half the sifted flour and one tablespoon of milk to the egg mixture and using a metal spoon fold these ingredients through. Be careful not to deflate the mix. When it's almost incorporated add the remaining flour and milk and once again fold them through until just combined.

If you want to make traditional lamingtons, use a 20x30cm (7x11 approx.) cake pan.

If using moulds, just spoon in the mix until three-quarter full.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°C oven until golden brown. The times will vary depending on the type and size you are making. The small pyramids took around 10 minutes, the large between 15-20 minutes.

Let them cool slightly before removing from the moulds and place on a wire rack.

Make the chocolate icing:
Sift the sugar and cocoa together into a bowl and add enough boiling water (start with 1/3 of a cup) to make a thin icing. Stir really well to make it as smooth as possible.

Assemble the lamingtons:
Make sure you have a wire rack sitting over baking paper set up to catch any icing drips.

Take your lamington pyramid (or square) and dip into the chocolate icing making sure it's totally covered. Remove it by slipping a fork underneath and let it drain as it sits on the fork over the icing bowl. Place it on the rack and let it sit for a minute before placing it into your bowl of desiccated coconut. Make sure it's completely covered before returning it to the wire rack.

When all the lamingtons are done, place them in the fridge to set - this will ensure the coconut stays attached.

When you're ready to serve, take them from the fridge and plate them...then watch them disappear!

lamingtons


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Blackberry Delight

This is part of Blog Party #18:Black and White.

When thinking of something appropriate to use for this theme my immediate thoughts turned to Black Sambuca and this intriguingly alluring creamy cocktail.

cocktail

Blackberry Delight
[Makes 1]

30ml Black Sambuca
30ml Strawberry Liqueur
30ml Malibu
75ml cream

Place all the ingredients into a shaker with ice - shake vigourously then strain into a glass.

Serve immediately.


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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

One year later...

happy-blog-day

Time really does fly when you're having fun.

It's hard to imagine that a full year has gone by since I made the decision to begin this food blog. I don't know if it was one thing or just the culmination of many things that lead me to that point but I'm glad that it happened.

I must give a huge THANK-YOU to everyone that has visited and supported this blog - to those that have commented or sent emails I truly appreciate the time you've taken to do so. I've enjoyed the many stories, recipes and questions you've shared with me. It has been such a fantastic experience - it's so easy to find points of difference but with food, that's one part of life were we can all come together. It is the universal language.

To celebrate one year I've updated the blog - it's now running fully on "new" Blogger - there's still a few things to add and a few tweaks to do but after yesterday's power failure which saw a third of the state lose power, I consider myself lucky that I was able to get this done at all. I do know there's an issue with the banner in Opera but if you find something else awry in the site, just email and I'll see to it.

It's been quite sad to lose the black background - I find it very soothing to the eyes but do understand that not everyone shares that opinion.

I've added a Translation Tool to the right sidebar - just select the language required and the web-site will be automatically translated. It's pretty neat.

To show my support for Farmers' Markets I've included a section just for them. Where possible I've included links that will have all the details you need. If you know of a market that's on and I haven't included it - please drop me a line and let me know and I'll make sure to add it.

I should add that new blogger seems to do it's feed a little differently so you may well notice that posts on the feed don't quite coincide with what is on the site. Apologies if you are getting old posts showing up - it's out of my hands at the moment.

So with one year down I look forward to sharing the next year with you all.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #29

Fork and Bottle is hosting this edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday and it's theme is Biodynamic Wines.

Finding an appropriate wine wasn't too difficult and there seemed to be a good varietal range. For those living locally, Ripe The Organic Grocer in Prahran Market and Macro Wholefoods in Richmond are good places to seek out organic and biodynamic wine and spirits

The wine I've chosen is the Robinvale 2002 Zinfandel from Robinvale in the Murray Region of Victoria, about 470km north-west of Melbourne.

bottle

The wine comes in at 13% and was matured in French and American Oak.

zinfandel

In the glass it has a pleasant colour, perhaps a little lighter than I had expected for a Zinfandel. On the nose there's a lovely aroma of ripe berries. Taste, it's quite well balanced showing fruit and spice with an appealing creaminess. It's a lighter styled wine and very easy to drink.

Jack, in setting up this theme, stated his belief that what sets biodynamic wines apart are their "purity of fruit" and asked for our thoughts.

Good fruit is an important factor but I think probably of more importance is a passionate Winemaker who strives to get the best from their fruit - whether it be conventional, organic or biodynamic.


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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Cherry and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart

Just when you thought it was safe, I'm back with another Cherry recipe. I think this might just be my last cherry dish for a while but you never know - inspiration or madness might strike.

The idea for this tart came via my fondness for frangipane , having used it, oh, a few times before. As a match for my poached cherries, I decided to substitute hazelnut meal for the almond meal and as I like to experiment, I've opted to use duck eggs. The pastry that will line this tart is the wonderfully rich Pasta Frolla - though a good sweet shortcrust will do.

dreamy

Cherry and Hazelnut Frangipane Tart
[Makes 1 x 23cm/9 inch square tart]

½ portion Pasta Frolla (or your favourite sweet shortcrust pastry)
2 cups poached cherries, well drained
120 grams softened butter, cut into small cubes
120 grams caster sugar
3 duck eggs, at room temperature (you can use chicken eggs)
120 grams hazelnut meal
pearl sugar
pure icing sugar, for dusting

Line your fluted tart tin with pastry - let it rest for about an hour before cooking.
Cover with baking paper filled with weights and place in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven.
Cook for 10 minutes, remove paper and weights and continue cooking for another 10 minutes, turning down the heat if you think it's browning too quickly until the case is almost cooked through.

Make the frangipane:
Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of a mixer and beat until light and creamy. It's important that your eggs are at room temperature to avoid curdling the mixture. I like to break my eggs into a bowl and then slowly add them to the creamed butter in a manner to minimise temperature variation. Make sure the egg is fully incorporated before adding the next amount. When this is done, fold in the hazelnut meal being careful not to over-mix.

Assemble the tart:
Place about a quarter of the frangipane into tart case - spread it out to roughly cover the base. Dot the well-drained cherries over this - 2 cups is a generous amount and you'll find that it will make the tart a little harder to cut into neat pieces but that's a compromise I'm willing to make.
Pour over the remaining frangipane, smoothing it out to evenly cover the cherries.
Sprinkle over with some pearl sugar - this is optional.

Return to the oven and cook for another 20-30 minutes or until the topping has set and is golden brown. Once again, if you feel it's browning too quickly, turn the oven down.

If you use duck eggs, you'll notice they will react slightly differently. The best description I can give is that the frangipane gets a meringue like consistency to it's surface. It doesn't effect at all but it's something you need to be aware of.

tart

Let the tart cool in the tin before removing and dust with pure icing sugar.

slice

Smiles all round and a big thumbs up for this tart - the pastry has a wonderful shortbread like taste, the cherries and hazelnuts work in harmony and it leaves you that lovely feeling of decadence.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Mixology Monday XI

Imbibe Unfiltered is hosting this edition of Mixology Monday and the theme is Winter Warmers.



There aren't too many warming drinks to enjoy during summer but it always seems a good time for hot chocolate. So with Hayden Wood and his excellent book The Liquid Kitchen: Party drinks as my guide I came upon something a little different for a flamed hot drink.

In this recipe hot chocolate is imbued with Cognac, cloves and cinnamon to create something that will warm you with it's spice and it's heat and have you looking at hot chocolate in a new way.

cocktail

Cognac, Clove and Cinnamon Hot Chocolate
[Makes 2]

60ml Remy Martin Cognac
5 whole cloves
½ cinnamon stick
2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons pure cream, whipped
250ml hot chocolate
2 cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Flame cloves and cinnamon with Cognac, then add to glasses.
Top with hot chocolate and whipped cream then garnish with a cinnamon stick.

To flame:
Heat a long handled jug until hot, pour in Cognac and swirl before lighting the vapours. Once alight add the cloves and cinnamon stick and continue to swirl for about 30 seconds. Strain and then it's ready to use.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Mediterranean Salad

Weekend Herb Blogging travels to Southwest Virginia where Coffee and Cornbread is our gracious host.

This week I'm find myself featuring another find from the Farmers' Market - in this case a rather rustic looking bunch of dried oregano.

dried oregano© by haalo


Saturday, January 13, 2007

Cheese: Timboon Farmhouse Cheese

Staying in Victoria but moving to the south west of the State, it's home to one of our most famous natural attractions, the 12 Apostles. It's also home to Timboon Farmhouse Cheese.

Timboon Farmhouse Cheese was established in 1985 by Herman Schultz and uses bio-dynamic methods in the production of their cheese including the use of non-animal rennet. Though no longer owned by Schultz, the cheese is still made from the milk of his herd of Jersey and Friesian cows.

fetta

Cheese Maker: Timboon Farmhouse Cheese
Cheese Type: Gourmet Fetta
Location: 23 Ford and Fells Road, Timboon Victoria
Open: Daily 9.30am to 5pm for light lunches and tastings at "The Mousetrap"

Now, I am quite fond of marinated fetta to the extent that I make my own but that doesn't mean that I don't appreciate commercially available varieties.

inside

Inside each jar you'll find 3 discs of organic cows' milk fetta marinated in Canola oil and a mix of dried herbs and spices - there's bay leaf, peppercorns, chilli flakes, dried oregano to name a few.

cheeseboard

Tastewise, it's fairly low in salt and very creamy which is directly attributable to the milk blend used and really quite easy to eat on it's own. Superficially, it looks very attractive on a cheese board.

fetta

It's also excellent in salads and don't forget to use some of it's oil for the dressing as it's full of flavour.


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Friday, January 12, 2007

Zucchini Velouté

At the last farmers' market, the Christmas ornament sized Globe Zucchini had grown somewhat. Though I considered them too big to stuff, they still had me with their cute factor so I purchased them all the same.

What to do with them soon came to me. Rather than slicing off the top, why not slice them through the centre and use them as the bowls - bowls that would contain a soup made from it's "innards". It seems to be done all the time with pumpkins why not zucchini?

With such a pretty bowl I couldn't just make an ordinary soup. After-all it's not that I would be offering a large serving of soup, so something a bit rich would be the go. So I came up with this velouté inspired soup.

Now the term velouté seems to have been appropriated to cover any rich, creamy soup whereas traditionally it's use applied to soup thickened with egg yolks, butter and cream. It should be noted that velouté also applies to a sauce made with stock and thickened with a roux.

As zucchini has a fairly mild flavour I didn't want to lose it in a battery of dairy products and egg yolks. So I simplified the whole soup to try to get to the essence of zucchini and use the cream to lengthen the flavours I've obtained.

In this dish, I've used a small leek - to keep in the spirit of subtle flavours, flesh of the cored zucchini and no stock at all. All the liquid that forms comes from the zucchini itself. It's then blended until smooth and cream is added and then frothed again to lighten the texture.

To make it a little more special, I've served the soup with sansho seasoned fresh scallops, quickly seared to retain their sweet juices. It may be a little rich but we all deserve special treats and this is one treat that's just perfect to share with that special someone.

zucchini velouté© by haalo


Zucchini Velouté
[Serves 2]

1 large Globe zucchini
1 small leek, white part, diced finely
salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
¼ cup cream, approximately
2 scallops, roe removed
sasho pepper

First off, slice off the hardened stem of the zucchini to make a flat base, then turning it on it's side, slice it straight down the centre. You now have two halves that will sit flat.

Now hollow out each half. I just used the same method described here.

Use the tip of your knife to score a deep cross into the flesh, then take a spoon and following the curve of the zucchini, push it in and scoop out a rough quarter of the pulp. You just continue following the natural curve with your spoon to hollow out the zucchini. These are a lot easier to do than the stuffed ones. Keep all the flesh you've removed and roughly chop it into a finer dice.

zucchini bowls© by haalo


Here are the finished "bowls" - I won't be boiling them as I want them to stay as firm as possible.

To make the soup:

Place a small knob of butter and a little oil (I use oil to stop the butter browning ) into a saucepan over a low heat - let the butter melt before adding the leeks. Sauté these, without browning for a few minutes until soft. Add the chopped zucchini flesh, stir well and cook slowly for 5 to ten minutes. It's important that you don't get any colour into the soup.

Season with a little salt and white pepper - you'll notice as the zucchini softens it will release a lot of liquid, more than enough for the soup.

Using a wand/stick blender makes the next part really easy as it all can be done in one pot. You need to blend the flesh until smooth - taste again for seasoning. Then add between a quarter and a third of a cup cream. Let it slowly come back up to temperature before giving it another blend to aerate the mixture before pouring it out into each bowl.

Cook the scallops:

In a small dish add a little oil and the two scallops, turning to ensure they are well coated. Sprinkle over with a sansho pepper.
Heat up a fry-pan and when hot add the scallops, sansho side down. Sprinkle the other side with a little sansho too. You want to cook this really quickly and to get a nice crust on the scallops - about 15-30 seconds. Turn and just seal the other side - about 15 seconds.

Place the scallop in the centre of each bowl and serve.

zucchini velouté© by haalo


The sansho works so well here, it adds such an appealing fragrant spice to the dish. The soup itself tastes quite decadent yet it's the flavour of zucchini that lingers. Perhaps, a dish well suited for Valentines Day.
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