Friday, April 30, 2010

Ricotta and Parmesan Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Zucchini flowers are abundant at the grower's market at the moment which is total bliss for me, and at a mere $5 for 8-10 flowers there's no reason not to eat them every week.


Ricotta and Parmesan Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Ingredients

8-10 zucchini flowers
200g ricotta cheese
A handful of grated parmesan
1 egg
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Method

A lot of people freak out about zucchini flowers because of their delicacy and the preparation involved in cooking with them. An easy rule of thumb is that the older the flowers, the more problematic the preparation. As they age the flowers start to wilt and stick together, shrinking slightly. It follows that they will therefore be more difficult to clean and stuff.

With nice fresh flowers you should be able to gently separate the petals and see a bright yellow stamen inside, which must be removed. All you need to do is flick the stamen with your fingernail and it will detach and can be gently shaken out of the flower. Be gentle because the petals will tear very easily.

Once you've removed the stamens give the flowers and the attached baby zucchini a gentle wipe with a damp paper towel to clean them.

Mix together the ricotta, parmesan, egg and some salt and pepper.

Put the mixture into a ziplock bag and seal the bag, doing your best to remove excess air. You can also use a piping bag and nozzle but I prefer the ziplock method because once you're done you just chuck it straight in the bin. So easy. Cut off one corner of the bag, insert into each zucchini flower and gently pipe in the mixture. Don't pipe all the way to the top or your zucchini flower will pop or leak when you cook it. Once it's full gently press the tops of the petals together and place the flower onto a lined baking tray. Once all the flowers have been done drizzle with olive oil and place in a 190 degree oven and bake for 15-2o minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve on a bed of dressed rocket. Devour.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guest Post: Marley's Far Out Brussel Sprout


A while ago I posted a variation of Marley's 'super awesome' chewy cookie recipe, which is still in my opinion the best and most adaptable cookie recipe around. Marley is also an avid cook of 'healthful' meals, and this midweek supper that she emailed me about is no exception.

This supper was created when I planned to make risotto but had a change of heart re: standing in the kitchen on my lonesome and stirring rice for half an hour. The risotto I had planed involved leeks, bacon, Brussels sprouts, fennel seeds and ricotta – an unusual but winning combination of flavours I came up with last Autumn when leeks and sprouts were plentiful at the Aldi. Bacon and fennel seeds (and chilli) make Brussels sprouts sing with joy, and leeks I find are a nice substitute for, or addition to, onion in a risotto.

Anyhoo. Couldn’t be arsed with the risotto, but had a small amount of risoni (rice-shaped pasta) to hand. Delicious creation ensued (served 2 greedy piglets; probably could’ve served 3 more restrained persons).

Marley's Far Out Brussel Sprout

Ingredients

2 large handfuls of Brussels sprouts. I used a whole 500g pre-packaged bag from the Aldi. (They’re good for you. Don’t be shy.)
2 teasp fennel seeds, crushed a just a little in a mortar and pestle
4-6 rashers of bacon (depending on greed) trimmed of rind and excess fat and chopped into matchsticks
1 teasp brown sugar
2-3 courgettes, chopped into chunks (make a straight cut then an angled cut then a straight cut etc – result is nice pyramid-ish chunks)
150-200g risoni (could be increased to a normal 125-150g serve per person, but using the lesser quantity means the result is less of a pasta dish and more of a ‘dish involving pasta’, which was a more unusual and also lighter result)
Zest of ½ a lemon
2 tabs ricotta (I used low fat)

Method

Score the sprouts with a criss-cross on their heads – cut as far down the sprout as you can without totally splitting it, except for giant ones, which are best split in half. Scoring the sprouts means they cook more quickly and absorb more flavours through the increased surface area. Parboil them in well-salted water – they should be softened but still crunchy at the core.

Fry the bacon and fennel seeds in a large frypan with lots of black pepper and a generous amount of olive oil. Add par-boiled sprouts – save their water, and just scoop them out with a slotted spoon or similar into the frypan. Add a splash more olive oil if necessary, and the sugar for maximum caramelisation. Shake frypan vigorously, making sure sprouts are well covered with oil and bacon and fennel seeds, and the bacon is well crisped, and the whole thing is caramelizing a little and smelling fantastic. Turn off heat when deemed appropriate/ smoke alarm going off.

Meanwhile cook the risoni in the sprouts water (speeds things up – water is already boiled, and as a bonus, has the nutrients from the sprouts). When only 5 mins remaining, add the courgettes.

Drain and add to frypan – turn heat back on for a bit if necessary, ditto add a little more olio – then add ricotta and lemon zest. Stir well.

Serve in deep bowls and HUGELY ENJOY.

I can see this becoming a weekly dish in our house. The flavours and textures were exciting, yet the overall effect was ‘comfort food’ – but without the stodginess usually associated with comfort food! Perfect! The lovely caramelised sprouts had their aniseed flavour brought out by the fennel seeds and offset by crispy salty bacon and nutty risoni, and the courgettes played a very nice supporting role as textural variety and flavour-absorbers. The ricotta brought it all together, and the lemon zest was last-minute genius.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

These cupcakes are also known as bribes. We had a big workshop at work today and I thought these would be an excellent motivator for my team at morning tea time. The downside was that we all peaked after the big sugar hit and spent the latter part of the day having withdrawals.

I love red velvet cake. The colour of the mixture just makes me smile.
The colour will change a little during the baking, to a deeper more raspberry red. This did confuse a few of my colleagues who were surprised to find that the cake is really a mild chocolate and vanilla cake. Go red food colouring. If you only eat organic or have a child with ADHD this cake is not for you. I think the taste makes it worth any possible carcinogenic properties.

Magnolia Bakery's Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups plain flour
170g unsalted butter*
2 1/4 cups caster sugar
3 large eggs*
6 tablespoons of red food colouring (I use Queen Pillar Box Red)
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk*
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Method
  1. Line two 24 hole muffin tins with cupcake liners
  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celcius
  3. In a small bowl sift the flour and set aside
  4. Cream the butter and sugar on the medium speed of a mixer (KitchenAid or hand) until they are very light and fluffy, it's almost impossible to over beat at this stage so aim for about 5 minutes
  5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, aim for about 1 minute per egg
  6. In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa, red colouring and vanilla, then add to the batter and beat well
  7. In a measuring cup stir together the buttermilk and the salt, and then beat into the batter alternating with the flour until the ingredients are just mixed. Do not overbeat at this stage or you will end up with a very dry cake.
  8. In a small bowl mix together the cider vinegar and the baking soda and then add to the cake mixture and mix it in well. Make sure that you scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula so that all of the ingredients are thoroughly mixed in.
  9. Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full, this mixture will rise quite a lot so overfilling can lead to disaster
  10. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in tho the centre of a cupcake comes out clean
  11. Cool and ice with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients

450g cream cheese (I use light Philadelphia)*
6 tablespoons unsalted butter*
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
5 cups sifted icing sugar

Method
  1. In a large bowl on the medium speed of an electric mixer beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the vanilla and beat well.
  3. Gradually add the sugar a cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy.
  4. Cover and refrigerate the icing for 2-3 hours to thicken before using. Don't leave it any longer or it will become too hard to work with.
*Always allow cold ingredients to come to room temperature before using them (unless otherwise specified, for example in pastry recipes). It will make the whole mixing process so much easier and gives a much better result.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Moi

I am besotted with Monsieur Boudin. I really identify with his sausage dawgie self. I bought this lovely card designed by Lab Partners with the intention of giving it away but now I'm inclined to frame it and put it on the wall. Is that weird?

Incidentally, Mr Boudin's Parisienne adventures along with Cakespy's amazing descriptions or Laduree, Cafe Angelina and Pierre Herme are making me want to break open the piggy bank and jump on a plane to France.

Pear and Treacle Upside Down Cake

I have to stop buying pears. Every time we go to the market I admire how they're looking and then convince myself that we really will eat them for morning tea. A week later and I'm faced with an empty fruit bowl bar the pears. Pear cake is the answer. Especially upside-down pear cake. The treacle in this recipe made everybody who tried it ask if it was a type of gingerbread, but ginger haters will be glad to know that there is in fact no ginger in the cake.

Pear and Treacle Upside-Down Cake


Ingredients

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
250g melted butter
2-3 pears cut into thick slices
1 cup treacle
2 eggs
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, sifted
2 cups plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup almond meal
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
200ml buttermilk

Method
  1. Preheat oven to 160°C/140°C fan-forced.
  2. Lightly grease and line either a deep 23cm square cake tins, or two 7” round cake tins. I used two tins so that we could eat one cake and gift the other!
  3. Mix together half a cup of brown sugar and a third of a cup of the melted butter and spread over the base of the pan/s. Lay the pear slices over the top of the mixture.
  4. Place the remaining butter in a large bowl and mix in treacle, eggs, soda, flour almond meal, cinnamon and remaining sugar, and then mix through the buttermilk. Pour batter over pears. Bake for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes (for the single square tin) or 1 hour (for the two round tins) or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. It never hurts to test!
  5. Cool in the tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a plate. The cake was lovely eaten warm with ice cream or cold later on. And you can bung a piece in the microwave for the next few days and have it like a hot pudding.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Smitten Kitchen Week

I have loved reading Smitten Kitchen from the day I discovered the world of blogging. It's where I first read about Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes. It's where my Mum discovered potato kugel. Deb's recipes are fantastic.

So this week all our meals will be cooked using recipes from Smitten Kitchen. Smitten Kitchen Week. Like National Diabetes week. Only better. And not good for diabetics at all.

Today I have two hungry painters upstairs working hard so I thought it was the least I could do was kick of the week of Smitten Kitchen and whip up a Wild Mushroom and Stilton* Galette which turned out to be absolutely delicious. I will definitely make the pastry again because it was very very easy to work with and had a lovely mild sour cream flavour.

* I have to confess that I used gorgonzola instead of stilton, and my it was good.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guest Post: A LANYC Peanut Butter Dinner Party

When the lovely LANYC emailed me to share her excitement at the planning of a peanut butter themed dinner party I knew it was going to be a blog-worthy event. I am relieved to see that one of LANYC's original ideas ("I also have this bizzare desire to make a version of devils on horseback with prunes stuffed with pb, wrapped in bacon and grilled. Gross or yum?") did not end up featuring on the final menu.

The Peanut Butter Dinner Party
By LANYC

'Starters'
Peanut butter salsa
Peanut butter hummus with crudites and tortilla chips
Mains
West African Peanut stew with sweet potato and kale
Mexican peanut butter brisket (for eating in soft torilla tacos with homemade pink pickled beets, onions, purple cabbage and cilantro 'slaw)
Smoked and seared tofu skewers with coconut peanut satay sauce
Dessert
Chocolate banana peanut butter cream pie with graham cracker crust
Peanut butter cheesecake pie with oreo crust

Whew. The surprise hit was the salsa. I made this complex peanut butter mexican marinade thinger but then I decided that the menu needed more fresh tasting things so I stuck it back in the food processor with a tin of tomatos, some pickled jalapenos, ground cummin, bunch of cilantro, green onion, red onion and heaps of lime juice and salt. Whiz whiz went the blades, delicious went the salsa. The brisket was also hilariously good - I recommend giving it a go, though it's very very rich.

The pies were tweaked from Joy the Baker and the Pioneer Woman and I used ganache instead of plain melted choc for the first recipe, and made my own version of vanilla custard for the banana layer. In the second recipe - I refuse to use Cool Whip (frozen non-diary 'cream' is foulest chemical thing ever) - so substituted cream whipped with a bit of italian meringue.I'm going to have to do a second peanut butter dinner just so as I can make the sour cream cake and some of the other things I found when researching this menu. I'd still like to do a trashy dinner with elvis sandwiches and the amended devils on horseback... Perhaps peanut butter mac and cheese and peanut butter hamburgers for mains? Oh, the possiblities!

So is anybody inspired to have an 'unusually' themed dinner party any time soon?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Cinnamon Cocoa Fruit and Nut Bars


In the spirit of recipe development this recipe is my own adaptation of Oui Chef's adaption of David Lebowitz's adaption of Alice Medrich's recipe. Ridiculous isn't it!

It's the kind of recipe that allows lots of flexibility and substitutions. Next time I might leave out the cocoa and add ground ginger and nutmeg and use some dried pears instead of cranberries. You get the picture.

If you're after something a bit safer then replicate the recipe below and you won't be disappointed. These bars are absolutely delicious.

Cinnamon Cocoa Fruit and Nut Bars

Ingredients


50g buckwheat flour
20g Dutch process cocoa
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
60g brown sugar
200g toasted nuts (hazelnuts, almonds, pecans and sunflower seeds)
170g dates, pitted and chopped
170g dried fruit (apricots and dried cranberries)
2 small eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence

Method

Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl.

Add fruit and nuts and mix well so that all the pieces separate and are coated with the dry mixture.Beat the eggs and vanilla and add to the fruit and nut mixture, coating everything thoroughly so that the mixture is well combined and glossy.

Spoon the mixture into a lined 8 inch square pan and press down with a fork so that it's spread evenly (and right into the corners.)

Bake at 160 degrees Celcius for 35-40 minutes, then remove from oven and allow to cool. Cut into 12 pieces and gobble.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Oh Martha you are good to me

A few months ago I started reading The Food Librarian's blog and I think I've caught her obsession with bundt cakes. She did a whole month of bundt baking with the catch phrase 'I like big bundts' and I think I read every entry sighing over the beautiful array of bundt tins she has.

Rahul gave me a bundt tin as a wedding present (is that romance or what?!) and after filling it up with water to determine it's cup size (sounds like breasts, no?) I found that it is a 10-12 cup bund tin. Martha suggested making a Pear Spice Bundt Cake and because she never lets me down I did. The cake was a gift for friends so I have no personal account of it's taste, but I can tell you that when I licked the bowl the raw batter was mighty fine, as was the smell throughout the house as it baked.

Martha Stewart's Pear Spice Bundt Cake

Ingredients

1/2 cup of sugar
5 pears peeled, cored and choppped into chunks
230g unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 and 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
4 large eggs
1/2 cup of milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celcius and butter and flour a 10-12 cup bundt pan.

In a saucepan spread the sugar evenly and cook over medium to high heat without stirring until it bubbles at the edges and begins to melt and turn golden, about 3-4 minutes. Stir slowly until all sugar has melted and the mixture is translucent and golden.

Add the pear chunks to the caramel and stir to coat, cook covered for about 8 minutes stirring occasionally. Using a potato masher mash the pears until they are broken down, then cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the pears cool completely.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices together in a medium bowl.

Cream the butter and brown sugar, then add the eggs one by one. Slowly add the flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the milk. Add the pear mixture and mix to combine. Be careful not to over mix.

Bake until the cake is a deep golden brown and the cake tester comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

You can dust the cake with icing sugar to serve, or make a glaze as I did with 2tbsp milk mixed with 1 cup of icing sugar and a splash of caramel flavouring.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tsoureki french toast with figs and cinnamon yoghurt


The perfect Easter Monday indulgent breakfast. Tsoureki is essentially a Greek brioche which tends to be made at Easter time (although nothing prohibits Tsoureki bliss happening throughout the year.) This year Greek Orthodox Easter fell on the same weekend as regular run of the mill Christian Easter, and with Greek Easter comes an enormous lunch after which you leave my grandmother's house laden with leftovers and your loaf of her home baked tsoureki.
Over the years I am learning that you can do a lot with tsoureki. If you're smart you put it in the freezer and bring it out for bread and butter pudding on a cold winter evening when you're in need of the comfort that childhood favourites bring (and the accompanying belly.)

Or you can do what I did and make the woggiest breakfast ever (with the exception of the French toast concept. Which presumably is American not French. Odd.)

Rahul claims that he has loved figs ever since he saw them being eaten like apples in an episode of the Sopranos, my father likes to find a fig seller that he can spiritually connect with, it's safe to say that they are the the woggiest fruit around. Especially if you team them with Greek yoghurt with some cinnamon and brown sugar mixed through it. Top it with a drizzle of maple syrup and you're in business. It really was lovely. I'm going to mourn the end of this year's fig season.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mustaches are dapper

I bought some mustache chocolate moulds months ago when I placed my giant Bake It Pretty order. Around this time I was planning what I hope was a modern and elegant wedding for Rahul and I, but I was also harbouring secret fantasies of an alternative wedding-a-palooza. My imaginary wedding would have had single flowers in jam jars or Orangina bottles which could have been place settings for the lady guests, I'm thinking letterpress labels tied to the bottles with twine. Mustaches, flowers, you're asking where the segueway is. Here you have it. Place settings for the men would have been chocolate mustaches with little name flags tied to them. This wedding would also have had a mariachi band and a pinata. It would have been awesome.

Thankfully my moulds have not gone to waste. My brother is a mustache lover. Not so much on his face, but he has tattooed a mustache on to the inside of his index finger. Nothing brightens a dull day more quickly than a tattooed tache held to the upper lip. Pair that with a silly face and you can't go wrong. So Ben is receiving a box of chocolate mustaches in lieu of eggs this Easter. Happy Easter Bee xxx

Friday, April 2, 2010

Kourambiethes (and a couple of gratuitous 'dress' shots)

See the beautiful icing sugar sprinkled crescents in the middle of the shot? They are kourambiethes, Greek almond shortbread made my my Yiayia. For years my family have been trying to record Yiayia's recipes however we are invariably foiled by her memory for recipes. She doesn't really measure, the trick is to use the 'right amount' of any particular ingredient.

At Christmas time Yiayia gave me some money to spend on a gift for myself and I thought it was appropriate to buy George Colombaris' 'Greek Cookery from the Helenic Heart'. It's a fantastic book with so many familiar recipes, even some that my Yiayia hasn't cooked in many years. And of course it has a recipe for kourambiethes.

Kourambiethes
Makes approximately 24 biscuits

Ingredients:

340 g unsalted butter at room temperature
110 g icing sugar
340 g plain flour
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 vanilla pod halved and scraped
Extra plain flour for dusting
Extra icing sugar for dusting
1 tsp salt

Method:
  1. Beat butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add plain flour, salt, almonds and vanilla scrapings and stir with a spoon until just combined.
  3. Knead mixture on a floured bench until a soft dough forms, without being sticky.
  4. Divide dough into 50g portions and roll into crescent shapes.
  5. Space out on a lightly greased baking tray and bake in a preheated oven at 165 C for 10 minutes, turn the tray and bake for a further 10 minutes until lightly golden.
  6. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack. Dust a sheet of baking paper with icing sugar. while the biscuits are still warm (not hot) place the biscuits on the paper and dust with icing until completely covered. Allow to cool.
And finally to continue with the wedding theme, a few totally unrelated dress shots as requested by Ms NQN!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Our wedding cake

Ages ago I raved on and on about how excited I was to have Libby from Polka Dot make our wedding cake. Here it is in all it's glory... ain't she pretty?