Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Holiday hiatus!

By time you read this post, I'll be away on a tropical holiday for three and a half weeks! I'll see if I can post some foodie photos while I am away, but the internet won't be my number one priority by any means, so don't be surprised if there aren't any posts for a while!

See you in a couple of weeks!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 18: Barbecued chilli prawns

As posted yesterday, I served the mango salad with barbecued chilli prawns, also from the Women's Weekly's Vietnamese Favourites.

1kg uncooked large king prawns (I used cooked wild prawns as that's all my fishmonger had)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Shell and de-vein prawns, leaving tails intact.
Combine turmeric, chilli, paprika and garlic in large bowl, add prawns and toss to coat.
Cook prawns in batches on a heated, oiled barbecue (or grill) until lightly browned.
Serve prawns with the mango salad posted here.

The prawns were fantastic (and would be even better if I had used raw instead of cooked), and combined with the mango salad, would make a fantastic tropical entrée for 4-6 people.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 17: Fresh mango salad

This week's theme: Vietnamese. I chose the recipe from a mini Women's Weekly book, Vietnamese Favourites. I scaled the recipe down by half, but here's the full recipe:

2 large mangos (1.2kg), coarsely chopped
1 small red onion, thinly sliced (I left this out)
1 fresh long red chilli, thinly sliced
1.5 cups bean sprouts (I forgot to buy these!)
1/2 cup coarsely shredded coriander (and this!)
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp grated palm sugar
2 tbs lime juice
1 tbs peanut oil

Make mango salad by mixing the ingredients gently in a medium bowl.
Because I didn't have onion or coriander, I instead added some chopped spring onions for colour and flavour. Despite the substitutions, this worked out really well - sweet, salty, sour and spicy all at once.
Serve with barbecued prawns (see the recipe that I'll post tomorrow!) - a fantastic combination.


Estia Street Festival

The Estia Street Festival is a Greek celebration of food and entertainment that's been running for quite a few years.

This is the dish we always get, chargrilled octopus, $7. The photo doesn't do the dish justice - they were beautifully tender and smoky in flavour. I especially like the bits with suckers!


Pork on offer:


We tried one of the kebab sticks, $3. I'm not a huge fan of pork, but it was beautifully tender and juicy.


We shared a small dip plate, $10. It was a very generous serve and the saganaki cheese (top of the plate) was particularly delicious.


Plenty of sweets on offer. I wish that they sold mixed packs with one of each of the sweets, as I'd love to sample them all!


We decided to try some xerotigana, $5. It's really tasty - crunchy, nutty and sweet but not overly so.


We also tried some freshly cooked loukoumathes, $5. These were very sweet fried dough balls coated in honey, and nicely offset by the dusting of cinnamon/nutmeg.


Some sand sculpting:


The crowd watching children doing Greek dances.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tomato harvest: cooking tomatoes down into a pasta sauce


I've been using the tomatoes from my garden in plenty of dishes lately, but have still ended up with a huge amount - the plants were really productive! I saved up 4kg of large and small tomatoes and cooked them down into a pasta sauce to be frozen for later use.

This is the 4kg of tomatoes, freshly washed:


I heated up a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large stock pot, added a few chopped-up cloves of garlic and cooked them until nicely fragrant and soft. I then added some chopped up spring onion and chilli and cooked them for a couple of minutes. Finally, I added the tomatoes. I didn't bother dicing or prepping the small tomatoes at all (other than removing the stems, of course!), but did chop the larger ones into quarters. I threw these in and added a couple of cups of water, a handful of fresh basil and a small amount of salt and pepper.


I let it simmer away for a few hours, softening the tomatoes and reducing the liquid. After an hour or so, I used my potato masher to break up the tomatoes a bit.


I tasted and adjusted the seasonings, adding some more salt and pepper, a dash of sugar and a small glug of Worchestershire sauce. I didn't want to over-season, but just keep it simple - when I use the sauce for future cooking I can get the seasoning right for the dish it's being used in.

Once the liquid had reduced quite a bit (by almost a third) I strained the liquid into another saucepan, and put the skins and seeds through my blender (in batches). The pureed skins and seeds went back into the liquid and I let it cook for another hour or so.


Finally, when I was happy with the consistency, I divided the mix into containers for freezing.


These will be used in future bolognaise sauces for pasta, lasagna, or whatever else I come up with!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Blackberry clafoutis

I had a heap of blackberries (picked from the side of a road!) that needed using up. Clafoutis (a French batter pudding) seemed like a good way to use them. I modifed the recipe for cherry clafoutis from the Family Circle cookbook, Cooking: A Commonsense Guide.

500g blackberries (you can also use cherries or other types of berries)
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup sugar
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
25g melted butter
1 tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 180ºC, and grease a 23cm pie dish with butter.
Spread the berries in the pie dish.
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the sugar.
In a separate bowl or jug combine the milk, eggs, butter and vanilla.
Pour the liquid mixture into the flour, whisking until free of lumps.
Pour the batter over the berries.
Bake for 30-35 minutes.
Serve immediately with cream or dusted with icing sugar.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 16: Gnocchi and rice noodles from scratch

This week's theme was noodles. I had a bit of a browse of the Wikipedia page for noodles, and was interested to learn that gnocchi are a type of noodle, and so decided to try my hand at making potato gnocchi. I've made it once before many years ago and it wasn't all that great, and so I hoped that I would be better at it this time! The recipe comes from Stephanie Alexander's The Cook's Companion.

I also really wanted to make rice noodles from scratch after seeing it done on Poh's Kitchen (I love cooking shows!). Rice noodle recipes don't appear in any of my books, so I used Poh's recipe and I've tacked it on to this week's challenge post.

Gnocchi ingredients:
1kg potatoes
300-325g plain flour

Dice and boil potatoes until tender, 15-20mins, then drain and peel (it's much easier to peel once the potatoes have boiled - the skin practically falls off!).
Bring another saucepan to the boil with at least 3L of lightly salted water.
Pass the potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer directly onto your work surface.
Sprinkle the potatoes with flour with one hand, and using the heel of your other hand, work it in. Be as quick and as deft as possible.
Continue until all flour is incorporated.
When the cooking water is at a fast boil, roll potato mixture into a long rope and cut into 1cm pieces.
Optionally roll the curved side of the gnocchi with a fork to create ridges.
Adjust the heat of the water so it is simmering.
Drop gnocchi in and skim out once they have risen to the surface.
Top with a prepared sauce, gently shake and serve at once.

I served this with a sage and walnut burnt butter sauce. I chopped up some fresh sage and walnuts and cooked them in some butter until the sage was crispy. I added the tiniest amount of chilli and a squeeze of lemon juice. It was very tasty, and really liked the texture of the gnocchi. Apart from the lemon juice (and the butter, of course) all the ingredients were things I had grown (or collected from a friend's tree in the case of the walnuts). I like that - but I do miss having a lemon tree, store bought lemons are really not good.


Rice noodles:
See the recipe here.

My notes on the recipe:
  • I managed to fit a rectangular tray neatly in my wok with only a little gap.
  • The tray that you steam the flour mixture in must be completely clean without a hint of a rusty spot, otherwise the noodles will be dirty!
  • Any steam that drips into the flour will leave soggy patches - you can see this in the second photo below. Try to set it up so that this doesn't happen.
  • The exposed top of the noodles beomes quite dry. This might be reduced by coving it in glad wrap when the mix is cooling.
  • Slicing is a bit tricky and messy, especially if you try to cut flat noodles like I did. It works though, just be prepared for mess!
  • I served my noodles with some stir-fried beef mince that had been cooked with garlic, ginger, chilli, spring onions, star anise, kecap manis, soy sauce and cabbage.
To be honest, it was interesting cooking these as an experiment but I really don't think it's worth the effort! The texture was a little odd (almost crumbly after cooking) and dried rice noodles are so cheap to buy.
The mince mixture was delish though - I'll make that again!

The noodles during steaming:


Steamed, with drip patches quite obvious:






The next theme (for this week!) is Vietnamese. Hopefully I'll get this one posted on time, as I am heading away on holidays for three weeks, so will be having a bit of a hiatus from the challenge!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monty's on Montpelier

Late last year I went to Monty's on Montpelier for a special dinner. We had a 3 course dinner, and these are some of the dishes that J and I tried.

Antipasti for one: carne cruda, patè di tonno + insalata caprese served with house made grissini ($22). This was my favourite dish of the night. Amazing! The highlight was the raw meat, carne cruda - it was perfectly seasoned.


Slow braised pork belly and grilled southern rock lobster over sweetcorn purée, with boudin noir and a port reduction ($22). J had this, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Interestingly, this recipe is included in Tasmania's Table.


Pan-seared duck breast in a pastry case of duck liver pâté + confit leg meat over a baked potato fondant, blanched asparagus and a shiraz + plum relish ($33). This was quite enjoyable, but just a touch too dry.


Tasmanian Fresh Farmed Rabbit tumbled through house made pappardelle in a light seeded mustard sauce with pancetta, herbs and crisp capers ($33).


Hansen orchard sticky apple tarte-tatin with bay and clove ice-cream and white wine honey ($13). My dessert didn't quite live up to the previous two dishes, sadly, it just didn't have any amazing attributes. I wished I'd chosen the chocolate tasting plate instead - I was suffering from dessert envy!


Cheese! J selected 3 types instead of a sweet dessert. They came with Monty’s made toasts, house made fruit paste and fresh fruit.


The extensive cheese list.


Gorgeous lighting.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Lemon curd tartlets

I followed this recipe to make some lemon curd tartlets for a morning tea at work. They were cute and nicely zingy!

The bases after baking:

Tart cases

The tartlets:

Lemon curd tartlets

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Light trifle cheesecake

I cooked this cheesecake recipe for my mum's birthday. Using the sponge finger biscuits for the base was easy and worked surprisingly well. I only used about 1/4 of the jelly mix in the cheesecake, as I felt it needed more for the topping. I also used light cream cheese.

One tip: the recipe recommends passionfruit jelly, but I think the flavour (and more specifically the colour) should depend entirely on the fruit you use to top the cake. I chose purple plums and blueberries, and the orange-coloured jelly clashed terribly! I mixed up some extra strawberry jelly and used it as an extra layer on top, which made it look much better.


Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cookbook challenge, week 15: Butternut pumpkin muffins with a frosty top

The theme for this week: muffins! I chose a recipe from Jamie Oliver's Jamie At Home. It was an intriguing sounding mix for a muffin, and I felt like something a little more savoury (although the end result was definitely a sweet muffin, not a savoury one).

A few notes about this recipe:
- It specified butternut squash, and I used butternut pumpkin (I'm pretty sure they are the same thing, squash vs pumpkin is a regional difference?)
- It said it would make 12, but it made 24! I could have filled my muffin tins a bit more, but even still there would have been more than 12
- I think my muffins were a tad undercooked (the picture in the book shows Jamie's to be very dark brown)
- I substituted a normal orange for the Clementine specified
- I only made a half-recipe of the topping, yet I used twice as much icing sugar than specified for a full recipe and the icing was still too runny
- I substituted a couple of drops of vanilla essence for the vanilla pod seeds

The original, unaltered ingredients are as follows:

400g butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and roughly chopped
250g light soft brown sugar
4 large eggs
sea salt
300g plain flour, unsifted
2 heaped tsp baking powder
a handful of walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
175ml extra virgin olive oil

For the frosting:
zest of 1 clementine
zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 a lemon
140ml soured cream
2 heaped tablespoons sifted icing sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out

Preheat oven to 180ºC.
Line muffin tins with paper cases.
Whiz the squash in a food processor until finely chopped.
Add the sugar and crack in the eggs.
Add a pinch of salt, flour, baking powder, walnuts, cinnamon and olive oil and whiz together until well-beaten without overmixing.
Fill the cases with the mixture.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked and not sticky.
Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.

Place most of the clementine zest, all of the lemon zest and lemon juice in a bowl.
Add the soured cream, icing sugar and vanilla and mix well.
Taste and adjust with more lemon juice or icing sugar if necessary.
Top the cakes.
Sprinkle with the remains of the clementine zest and lavender flowers or rose petals if desired.


Monday, March 1, 2010

Pumpkin and spinach salad

I used this recipe to whip up a salad for a dinner party. It was fantastic and has become a regular feature on our dinner table.

Pumpkin and spinach salad