Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chocolate & avocado pudding

There truly is nothing as wonderful as coming home after being away.

Suddenly the couch is comfier, the bathroom more spacious and your bedtime pillow becomes the greatest masterpiece of all time. Weeks spent sleeping in strange beds and being on board planes for 24hour stretches can really drain your batteries - home is where I recharge.

I must thank my parents who stocked my fridge with fresh fruit and veggies so I could postpone my weekly shop until jetlag subsides, and who also turned my heater on so that when we arrived at 2am, cold and haggard, we stepped into warmth and immediately relaxed.

This morning I did manage to resist the urge to sleep for twenty odd hours and awoke to begin the luggage-laundry and return items to their original locations. At noon I had everything put away and was already onto my second load of clothes. Having allocated photos and emails until after lunch, I thought I'd make myself a treat, but it had to be healthy as two weeks of eating out everyday has not been kind on my body (sorry body, but those pastries and butter were just too good to resist, and when in France...).

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 6mins.
total: 6mins.

taste: 4.5/5 (I think it deserves as extra half a point because of its healthiness.)

I was extremely sceptical about this but the look and taste of it erased all my doubts. Yes, I could taste banana, but I like banana, and there was the tiniest hint of creamy avocado also, but that was also pleasant. Despite the relatively small amount of cocoa this did taste like a light chocolate mousse. I loved the silky and substantial texture as well as the mild fruity sweetness. It satisfied all of my chocolate cravings and left none of the guilt. You can't ask for more than that ;).

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Aquacate del Chocolate

Monday, July 26, 2010

Sweet potato, silverbeet & goat’s feta pies

It is a lovely 27C outside with a light breeze filled with ocean scents blowing in from the Mediterranean Sea through the streets of Marseille to the balcony where I sit, gazing at the marina and out towards the blue yonder.

We have eaten Bertillon ice cream beneath the Eiffel Tower, bought ripe peaches from Mister Collignon's fruit shop, lathered our brioche with lavender honey from Provence and danced in the Place de L'Horloge in Avignon to the haunting sounds of a pan flute during their Performing Arts Festival. And now, we rest our aching feet in Marseille before leaving for the Cote D'Azure tomorrow morning for sun, sand and self-indulgence.

Til my feet are back in Melbourne, here is a post to tide you over.

(Apologies for any spelling errors, my husband has no spell check on his computer and I must admit, I have let my spelling skills slacken with years of its use).
ease: 3.5/5.
prep time: 2hours (includes chilling - make filling whilst pastry chills).
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 2 hours & 25mins.

taste: 4/5 - delicious parcels of goodness.

I adored was enamoured with this pastry. It had the perfect texture for this pie and was an excellent base for the fillings. The tart itself was a mixture of sweet, salty, creamy, tangy and smooth - great balance of flavours. As usual I added more garlic and goat's cheese (I always use the same one - Meredith's Dairy goat's cheese in olive oil it also has pepper and thyme in it, if you 're from Australia I am sure you are familiar with it) - this cheese pleases all palates, thought it was worth a mention since I've used it for every goat's cheese dish on here, and as you know, the flavour and texture of a dish changes depending on which cheese you use, (and in case you were wondering, I am not affliated with any company, I buy every product on my own dime, or sometimes my husband's ;).

The only thing I would change would be to use less sweet potato as there was quite a lot and it skews it too far to the 'sweet side' for me.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Sweet potato, silverbeet and goat’s feta pies

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Orange, lemon & vanilla galaktoboureko

Bonjour from France!

Yes, my partner-in-crime and I decided to take a two week soujourn in sunny France as the gloomy and often wet Melbourne weather was getting us down. Twenty five or so hours later, we arrived a little worn around the edges and in desperate need of a shower. Luckily it wasn't long before we were settled into our quaint Parisian apartment with a leafy view of the Eiffel Tower. Despite feeling as though we had been hit in the head repeatedly with a sock full of soap bars, we ventured out to a local street market to purchase some fruit for tomorrow's breakfast.

Right now, my husband is taking a nap to recharge his batteries before we venture out tonight in search of a French meal.

In the meantime, here is a link to a recipe I made just before leaving. I loved the citrus twist, but unfortunately I had some bad luck with the texture of the custard. Custard and I really are like oil and water - we simply do not mix.

recipe: Orange, lemon & vanilla galaktoboureko

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies

I had to guard the dough as if it was the Queen's jewels.

My husband was drawn to the dough as if it were quietly whispering his name, begging him to come closer and taste a piece - it was his precious.
It was a strenuous task leaving the dough to sit in the fridge for more than 24 hours without it slowly being whitled away by my stealthy spouse - I believe it was around the 48th hour that I finally caved and rolled the dough between my palms to be baked in the oven. And oh my, the smell was gloriously wonderful.

These cookies were destined for bookclub and the new neighbours. The first batch welcomed in a new family, and the second were to be nibbled on whilst watching The Time Traveler's Wife and then comparing the film to the book. Every two months or so, the three women (or sometimes girls) with whom I have been friends for the better part of two decades make the trip down to my house for snacks, films, books and lengthy chatter. I always smile when I watch them take their respective places in my lounge room. I always choose the corner closest to the kitchen, enabling me to jump up and hastily refill drinks or restock snacks as any good host should. My girlfriend S, chooses the middle of the L shaped couch closest to the window, often placing her glass or phone upon the window sill as she sinks back into the sofa, her feet outstretched with an apple in hand. K1 sits beside me, smack bang in the middle, bowls of chips, lollies, chocolates and everything a 8 year old dreams of beside her, she never comes without her junk food bounty. And last, but not least, K2 most often chooses the floor, belly to carpet with her notebook open as she draws and scribbles whilst we talk. I always look forward to these catch ups that often stretch from mid morning to early evening, like a ribbon unravelling down a hillside; time always flies so fast when we are together.

Despite the cookies being ready in wait for their taste-testing, they never made it to the bookclub. S had an unexpected work shift and had to cancel, so instead the cookies were split in two, half for my husband and I, and half for my father and grandmother who spontaneously stopped by. Although this batch didn't fulfil their book club destiny, I shall be making another for our rescheduled date two weeks from now. I feel as though I have found the perfect chocolate chip cookie, so it's only fair my friends get to taste them too, as perhaps their searches will also end with his little gem.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 10mins plus 24-72hours chilling time.
cooking time: 12mins per batch, I made around 30 cookies.
total: 40mins plus chilling time.

taste: 4.5/5. I think I've found THE ONE.

I had a good feeling about these cookies from the start - my patience in letting them wait was well rewarded. The texture was perfect for me, crisp outer shell with a soft, chewy centre that was a perfect backdrop for the soft, bitter-sweet chocolate discs all topped off with a sprinkle of salt - the perfect sweet and salty combination. The only thing I would change would be to reduce the chocolate amount. I already reduced it to 500g but I think it was still too much chocolate-to-cookie, perhaps 400g would be the perfect amount.

would I make them again: Yes.

recipe:  Chocolate chip cookies

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pork & cabbage cakes with sweet onion relish

I watched them silently.

Their black forms sliced through the air like stealth jets as they carried large sticks back and forth to the towering tree at my garden's edge. The pair flew overhead for hours, never seeming to rest between trips, eager to finish their nest by nightfall. Despite their largeness they flew with more ease than all of the other birds; gliding with only a flap or two, effortlessly sailing on air. They were beautiful to watch.

I only retreated indoors when the wind began to sharply nip at my ribs.
I often dream of what it would be like to see the world from a bird's eye - perched high amongst the tree tops with views past the horizon and to the earth below. Nothing but the whispering wind and rustling leaves; an all-seeing silence. It must be wonderful to be so unencumbered.

When dusk descended like a blanket, tucking us in with its indigo fingertips, I pulled a cookbook from the shelf that has remained unread. When I buy cookbooks, most often it is their photographs that pull me in. This one was filled with dreams during Winter - hearty stews and robust dumplings with warming puddings and spiced hot drinks. I have a feeling I shall be visiting its pages often in the coming frost-bitten weeks...

Apologies on slap-dash presentation

Pork and Cabbage cakes with sweet onion relish
from Snow Flakes And Schnapps by Jane Lawson
serves 4 - 6 (I say 4)

pork and cabbage cakes
400g minced pork
1 streaky bacon slice, finely chopped
1/2small brown onion, finely chopped
150g finely shredded green cabbage
200g fresh white breadcrumbs
1 large egg
1/8 tsp white pepper (I used 1/4)
1/2 tsp chopped marjoram
1 garlic clove, crushed (I used 2)
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice

sweet onion relish
1 tbs butter
1 tbs sunflower oil (I used olive)
2 brown onions, chopped
1 tbs yellow mustard seeds (I subbed dijon mustard)
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
a small pinch of ground cloves
125ml cider vinegar
2 tbs soft brown sugar

poached egg and sautéed apple slices to serve

For pork and cabbage cakes combine all ingredients in non-metallic bowl and mix until combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
To make relish, heat butter and oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 10mins, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden, Add remaining ingredients, 1/2ts salt and 500m water and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30-40mins, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and cover whilst cooking the pork and cabbage cakes.
Remove pork mixture from the refrigerator and season well. Divide the mixture into eight even proportions. Using your hand, roll into a ball and flatten slightly to make patties 1.5cm thick. Lightly grease a non-stick pan and place over medium heat. Cook the patties for 4 minutes on each side or until lightly golden. Serve patties with onion relish, fried egg and sautéed apples.

ease: 4/5.
prep time: 8mins to make patties (then refrigerate over night or for at least 1 hour).
cooking time: 45mins for relish and patties.
total: 52mins plus refrigeration time.

taste: 4/5. Wintry pizzaz.

Hubby loved the accompaniments, but he found the patties a little boring and would have preferred a meaty, juicy pork chop instead to go with the soft, fluffy apples, salty fried egg and acidly sweet onions. (I over-reduced my onion relish, keep it a little more viscous).

would I make it again: Yes - to the accompaniments, but served with a pork chop rather than a pattie.