Sunday, March 28, 2010

Thinking about Easter

Isn't he cute? Chicks always make me think of the Royal Easter Show. One of the best things about the show is watching the fluffy little fellows wander around under their heat lamp and go down their waterslide.

Rather than overload friends and family with chocolate this Easter I'm going to make some different sweet treats to give as gifts. For the kids* in our family I'm going to make cupcakes, and I've come up with some very sweet decorating options.

My little kitchen table workshop has been busy.

Which one do you like best? I'm a bit partial to the yellow.

* The age range of the 'kids' at family events is 16-32 so I'm not sure how long we'll keep that tag for...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Orange Tian

Caramel and orange. So French. So chic. (I'm sure that's some kind of advertising catch-phrase that I'm parroting but hey, why not.)

This was a good challenge mainly because I developed some new kitchen skills. I have had a fear of making caramel for a long time, and I've never made a jam or marmalade before, so to succeed in both made me happy.

The base of the tian is a pate sable. I gave myself a mental pat on the back for freezing the leftover cinnamon almond pate sable I made for the Zumbo chocolate mousse cake.

Oranges have to be segmented and covered in an orange caramel sauce.

And then you make some marmalade. Pectin was my friend.
I haven't got any photos of the assembly of the dessert because it was too dark but the tian is assembled upside down with the oranges arranged prettily at the bottom, a cream mixture in the middle, and a circle of pate sable spread with marmalade on top.

Let them set and turn them out.

And then finish with a drizzle of caramel.

The 2010 March Daring Baker's challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse's Cooking School in Paris.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Strawberry Rocky Road Ice Cream

When I was growing up my mum used to make this ice cream when she had dinner parties. I remember lurking around the kitchen in the hope of stealing a bit of rocky road or at the very least getting to try a spoonful of the strawberry ice cream.

You wouldn't know it from the recipes I've blogged recently, but ice cream is my favourite summer dessert. Rahul and I were lucky enough to receive an ice cream maker with a built in refrigeration unit as a wedding gift and this weekend we put it to good use.

The recipe is from the Bather's Pavilion Cookbook, which was published in 1995 and bears no resemblance to the book of that name currently for sale which is full of Serge Dansereau's recipes. The original cookbook pre dates Serge Dansereau, who references European, particularly French cuisine. His predecessors, and writers of the 1995 cookbook, Victoria Alexander and Genevieve Harris created a menu of fresh Asian inspired dishes including chilli spatchcock with snake bean salad, tea and spice smoked quails with eggplant and stir fried beans and venison, tamarind and tempe hot pot.

I suppose this style of cooking would be unremarkable in 2010, but in 1995 you wouldn't have seen thai beef salad on every second cafe menu.

Stawberry Rocky Road Ice Cream

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 500ml pouring cream (single)
  • 2 cups strawberries
  • 1/4 cup strawberry liqueur
  • Rocky Road (DIY or just buy some from the supermarket)
Heat the cream in a large saucepan until it's almost boiling. I used a thermometer to check the temperature and pulled my cream off the stove when it was about 80 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks and the sugar in a bowl until they are pale and creamy. Pour the hot cream into the yolk and sugar mixture and whisk quickly and continuously until it's well combined. If you've heated the cream too much this is where it will make trouble for you because it will cook the egg yolks quickly and causing a scrambled egg effect rather than a smooth mixture.

Put the mixture back on the stove and stir continuously over low heat. You can see the mixture is quite thin and pale initially.

Continue to stir until the mixture becomes a thick custard and coats the back of a wooden spoon. I always find this instruction a bit confusing but in essence it means that the mixture is thick enough to hit the spoon and then not immediately slide off. The mixture will become quite yellow by this stage.

Remove the custard from the heat and put it through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. This will remove any lumps that may have formed.

Leave it to cool down while you prepare the strawberry mixture which is very easy. Wash and hull two cups of strawberries and blitz them in the food processor until they are liquid.

Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve to remove and lumps and large seeds. You should have about 1 1/4 cups of strained strawberry puree.

Get our your strawberry liqueur. I chose this brand because it proclaimed a 'wild' strawberry flavour and was slightly less lurid than some of the others available. Whether this made any difference to the final product I can't say!

Combine the custard, strawberry puree and liqueur and give it a good mix.
Put it in the fridge until it cools down. Once it's cool churn it in the ice cream maker in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

When it reaches a good consistency remove from the maker and stir through chunks of rocky road, then freeze. Keep some rocky road for decoration if you like.

I made rocky road with Lindt milk chocolate, almost slivers and Pascal marshmallows. I prefer it home made but you can use the bought stuff.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Taste of Sydney 2010

16 iconic Sydney restaurants. 48 tasting dishes to choose from. 90 'Crowns' to spend. And only 4 hours to do it in. According to the organisers it was the ultimate opportunity to create your own degustation menu, and that we did.

All the food and drinks ranged from 6 to 12 Crowns, Crowns being the 'official currency' of the event. Having a booklet of coupons made paying for food easy, there were no queues or searches for ATMs. Plus it put me in a Disneyland kind of mood, with another currency we were practically on holidays.

In a moment of brilliance, Rahul and I had decided to do a spin class a few hours before arriving at the festival, so by the time we walked in the gates we were famished. I sounded like some kind of junkie, desperately telling Rahul I needed 'something to take the edge off.'

This something turned out to be the famed wagyu beef burger from Justin North's Becasse offshoot, Plan B. I've seen references to the wonder of this burger all over the print and internet media, and when Rahul went to Plan B for lunch a few weeks ago I told him he had to try it but sadly it wasn't on the menu that day.

All I can say is that it totally lives up to the hype. 12 Crowns well spent. We were also given a booklet containing some of the recipes from the day, including this burger. I was slightly alarmed to find that a four burger recipe contained not only 400g of wagyu beef, but another 100g of wagyu fat. Which brings me to another important festival feature, all of the servings were miniature versions of the real menu item.

Longrain is one of Rahul's favourite restaurants, but one I haven't been to, so I was itching to try some of their food. The yellow curry of Byron Bay Berkshire Pork with pickled mustard greens was amazing. The pork was incredibly tender and the curry strong and rich, so the pickle provided a great bitey contrast.

We also tried the Faggotini di Carne from Buon Ricordo which was a 'home made sausage bound with parmesan and truffle egg', grilled king prawns with black pepper and curry leaf sauce from Flying Fish and manchego and serrano montaditos from El Toro Loco which turned out to be a toasted cheese and ham sandwich. Quite ironic because after pondering the enormous menu we decided to try something which was outside our comfort zone, which cheese and ham sandwiches certainly aren't. In fact I think that ham and cheese toasties are a universal cuisine!

Eventually I persuaded Rahul that it was dessert time and therefore time to order a vanilla panna cotta with lavendar honey and fresh pomegranite from Jonah's. The service staff are obviously highly aware of this pudding's reputation of looking like a wobbly boobie, and gave it a good circular swing and jiggle as they served it. It was hands down the best panna cotta I've ever eaten, the combination of lavendar, honey, vanilla and pomegranite was perfect.

We took a little break from eating to do a Planet Cake cupcake decorating lesson with Handi, whom you might remember from Masterchef. We had a scintillating discussion with Handi about how he can eat lots of cake but remains trim svelte from the physical exertion of carrying giant cakes around. Hilarious. Planet Cake were running free classes five minutes apart all day, and teaching a range of cupcake designs. Rahul ate his about two minutes after the class finished, but you can still see what a top job he did despite only a half dragonfly visible below!

By three o'clock we were about ready to be rolled home, but with my few remaining Crowns I bought a Pat and Stick's Caramel Pecan Ice Cream which is basically an incredibly up market Monaco Bar. So good. I've since been scheming about how I could make one at home using mini cake rings and my new ice cream maker (more on that later!)

All I can say is bring on Taste of Sydney 2011.

Friday, March 12, 2010

High Tea at the Art Gallery of NSW

Unfortunately, trying to eat healthily is very incompatible with food blogging. The more health conscious cooking regime means that sweets can be cooked or consumed in the following circumstances:

(a) if they are a gift for someone else, and therefore cannot be eaten by me
(b) for birthday, Christmas, Easter and other 'special occasions'
(c) if I'm out at a restaurant
(d) if friends come over to visit

Luckily for me last week there were two birthdays in my family, culminating in a visit to the Art Gallery of NSW for high tea. I loved the selection of food, and the coffee was fantastic.

The top tier was a sandwich selection - chicken waldorf and grilled vegetable and ricotta. No cucumber sandwiches in sight which was great because frankly the combination of cucumber and butter in enough to make me projective vomit.

The second tier was bruschetta, which I didn't try due to an overload of raw Spanish onion which gives me heartburn. I sound like a whinger today. I did eat many of the duck dumplings though, which had a perfect hint of lemongrass and a great dipping sauce.

The bottom tier was of course the highlight of my eating experience. Scones are of course a classic high tea choice, and in my eyes always a winner. Especially when they are served with raspberry jam and beautiful slightly whipped cream with flecks of vanilla through it.

The coconut, mango and raspberry cake (it had a much prettier sounding name but I can't remember it so I'll just call it how it is!) was fine, with a very moist coconut base and an airy kind of mango custardy mousse middle. The mousse part felt like it might dissolve in my mouth, but not in a good way, like a bad marshmallow. Definitely not a favourite.

Redemption came in the form of the passionfruit tart with chocolate meringue topping.

The passionfruit curd was great, and the meringue topping was like a better version of 7 minute frosting. Winner.

I'm glad the trend for high tea is back, it's like the olde English version of yum cha.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Cadbury Creme Eggs. Are you a lover or a hater?

I am a lover. I thought everyone was. Recently my illusions have been shattered as Cadbury Creme Egg haters have been revealing themselves to me.

The other day I discovered something that put my love to the test. Cadbury Creme Eggs Benedict, invented by Cakespy. It's all sweet, made of doughnuts, brownies, buttercream frosting, melted Creme Eggs, pound cake* and of course butter, and this is what it looks like:

So lovers, would you try it?
* I read about pound cake all the time and I assume it's just a vanilla butter cake. Today I decided it was time to advance my knowledge. According to Wikipedia pound cake refers to a type of cake traditionally made with a pound of each of four ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, and sugar. However, the quantity is often changed to suit the size of the cake that is desired. How cool is that!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A birthday gift

What could be a more appropriate gift for a Frenchman than blackberry and chocolate macarons? I used powdered food colouring for these macarons, and what a revelation it was, it's perfect to achieve pastel rather than fluorescent tones.