Thursday, May 28, 2009

Smoky baked beans & chorizo

Want dinner ready in 18mins?

I've got just the recipe for you thanks to Donna Hay. (To make it vegeterian just omit the chroizo).

Smoky Baked Beans & Chorizo
from Donna Hay's

olive oil
1 onion, diced
300g chorizo, sliced
400g lima or butter beans, drained and rinsed
400ml tomato passata
1/2cup (125ml) beef stock
1/2tsp smoked sweet paprika
cracked pepper
1/2cup flatleaf parsley leaves

Heat oil in fry pan over medium heat and cook onion and chorizo for 5mins or until browned.
Add beans, passata, beef stock and smoked sweet paprika and simmer for 8mins.
Stir through pepper and parsley and remove from heat.
Serve with buttered bread.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 13mins.
total: 18mins.

taste: 3/5. The paprika brought the heat, but hardly any smokiness for me. The tomatoes were vibrant and the more powerful flavour whilst the beans added a nice creminess and texture. I reduced the parsley to 1/4c and felt it was quite noticable at the end of each mouthful. I also substitued the beef stock for half a vegetable stock cube and an extra 100ml of tomato passata.

would I make it again: No - Ryan didn't really like it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Poached quince with spices

Today is QUINCE day.

I had half a quince and a hankering for some Greek yoghurt topped with something sweet and spicy.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 1hour.
total: 1hour.

taste: 3/5. Despite adding more spicing when I halved the amount it lacked spice for me. It was quite sweet, almost like honeydew.

would I make it again: No - not interesting enough for me.

recipe: Poached Quince with Spices

Monday, May 25, 2009

Lamb chops with poached quince & balsamic pan sauce

It was my Yia yia that introduced me to raw quince, a favourite snack of hers. Growing up I would gently nibble on slices of skinned quince; I would eat so slowly that tiny brown spots would eventually conceal its once pale blonde flesh.

She would bring me a plate of little, lemon shaped wedges that I would eat my way through while watching episodes of Art Attack, SuperTed and PlaySchool (I loved the Rocket Clock). In fact, it wasn't until I was a teenager that I actually saw the quince in its whole firm, covered in soft fuzz. And it wasn't until I was in my 20s that I began to try it in it's cooked form, having lost my taste for it's raw sourness.

The first time I poached quince and returned to see it had turned a glorious rubiscund shade I was delighted at how unexpected it was. I was also delighted by its tart sweetness and soft but firm texture.

Years ago I attempted this dish, with rather disastrous results. Now, with some increased confidence from years of cooking, I thought I'd give it another shot as I think my hubby will really like the combination.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 25mins.
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 50mins.

taste: 3/5. This was hated and liked which is why it got an average score. My brother said the taste relies heavily on the quince, if you don't like quince you will hate this. Whilst my husband said the sauce was really flavourful, but didn't like the quince slices much.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Lamb Chops with Poached Quince and Balsamic Pan Sauce

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rhubarb, cinnamon & almond cake

Rhubarb is a new acquaintance.

For years I passed it by, glancing at its firm magenta stalks and emerald crown, too intimdated to take it home. Eventually, I plucked up the courage and placed it in my cart, wondering what we could do together.

To say our first encounter didn't fare well is an understatement - my Rhubarb Cream Tart was not very pleasing to my particular taste buds and I let another year roll by before I once again filled my basket with its ruby stalks.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 22mins
cooking time: 1hour.
total: 1hour & 22mins.

taste: 4/5. Despite getting a little too brown, this cake is delectably moist with a crunchy topping. The pink flecks of soft, tart rhubarb help to cut through the cinnamon sweetness of the cake. I wish there had been more rhubarb swirled through as I was craving more of its rosy tartness and would double the amount next time.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Rhubarb & Almond Cake

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bread baked with honey & cream

"When Rabbit said, 'Honey or condensed milk with your bread?' he was so excited he said, 'Both,' and then, so as not to seem greedy, he added, 'But don't bother about the bread, please.'"

A. A. Milne

Although I do love, every now and then, to slowly lick a teaspon of honey, I prefer the amber liquid smeared on buttered white bread, trickling onto my fingers. Upon having some spare creme fraiche, I attempted this lovely afternoon treat a few years ago. As it was so greedily devoured by my husband, I thought I'd make it again.

Bake Bread with Honey & Cream
adapted from Epicurious

1x 9in sourdough loaf, 3 inches high
3tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/2cup mild honey
1 1/2tbs lemon juice
1/2cup crème fraîche
cinnamon, to sprinkle

Preheat oven to 180c.

Cut ends off loaf and then slice length ways, to make to large slices (or as the recipe states, cut crusts from the top and the bottom, leaving a rim of crust around the bread). Place in shallow baking pan and butter cut sides. Bake, turning over once, for 20mins or until lightly toasted.

Stir honey and lemon juice until combined, then spread on top of bread. Spread crème fraîche on bread and let sit for 15mins. Put in oven and bake for 20mins, or until golden. Slice into wedges and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Serve hot (or cold from the fridge, some people loved this more the next day).

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 55mins.

taste: 4/5. Lovely, moist, bread with hints of honey sweetness that gives way to citrus notes and then creamy tanginess from the crème fraîche and ends with warm, spicy cinnamon. Perfect afternoon treat.

would I make it again: Yes - great way to use up leftover bread and crème fraîche.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Baked eggs with chives & feta

“I do not like green eggs and ham I do not like them Sam I am.”

Dr Seuss.

No elaborate, wordy post today. I simply woke up, wanting something different for breakfast and ended up with this. Do not judge it based on its appearance, it's tastier than it looks.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 15mins.

taste: 4/5. I thought the boys would turn their noses up at it but they licked their ramekins clean. The chives and spring onions went beautifully with the egg and feta (I use goat's feta). I did increase the amount of feta and cream, but would probably use the right amount of cream next time as it was difficult to see the little egg yolk while cooking, so I overcooked them a tiny bit; They were still delectably velvet smooth.
I served them with some crispy, salted wholegrain toast fingers.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Baked Eggs with Chives & Feta

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Date pancakes with caramel sauce

My brother was quite the prankster and tormentor during our youth, despite his younger status. One such prank he used to pull involved dates and their resemblance in both colour and size to the incredibly disgusting, and frightening Cockroach.

As you can imagine I was deathly afraid of cockroaches, and upon hearing my brother yell out 'Cockroach!' and subsequently having a small brown object thrown onto my lap, a tirade of squealing and screaming would ensue as I ran through the house furiously smacking my clothing like a woman possessed.

Perhaps it was this, or their unusual texture, that deterred me from eating them. Despite my love of the great dessert, Sticky date pudding, I still do not eat singular dates. The hard, wax like skin which gives way to a sticky, saccharine interior does not appeal to me. Chopped up and thrown into a dense and gloriously sticky pudding, smothered in a viscous velvety caramel sauce and I'm wolfing it down in 3 seconds flat - go figure.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 8mins for 8 pancakes.
total: 23mins.

taste: 3.5/5. My goodness, what a sugar overload despite not using a large amount of sugar. The pancakes themselves are barely sweet, more spicy, with a hint of date (definitely increase the amount).

The caramel carries all of the sweetness of this dish. My caramel had been sitting out a while and became quite gluggy, almost powdery so I'm not sure what it would have been like straight off the heat. The pancakes are definitely reminiscent of sticky date pudding - not as sweet or date-y though.

would I make it again: No - nice but would rather the pudding.

recipe: Date Pancakes with Caramel Sauce

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Pommes Dauphinois

My husband isn't diplomatic when it comes to his favourite vegetable, the potato. He loves it far more than any other, and would gladly consume it year long as his only vegetable intake. His favourite dinner is a simply seasoned eye fillet steak with a serving of mashed potatoes, or potato fries, or baked catch my drift.

I also love the potato; it helped sustain me through each tightening of my braces when all I could eat was mush. I have never met one person who has turned their nose up at the humble, yet completely satisfying and comforting potato. If I had to chose my favourite dish it would have to be potato dauphinois, or gratin dauphinois . Unfortunately, it is the dish I have had the biggest problem with getting right. My most common problem has been that I have ended up with partially cooked potatoes. Parboiling may have prevented this, but each recipe it happened with did not call for parboiling. There is nothing more disappointing after a long wait, smelling it's glorious scent while baking, than ending up with a basically inedible dish.

I had basically given up hope of finding a foolproof dish and was not motivated to try another. However, on a recent trip to a gourmet food shop I stumbled upon signed copies of Shannon Bennett's cookbook, My French Vue. Having heard of his restaurant's stellar reputation I purchased it and raced home to leisurely read through it.

I pondered what recipe to try first until I turned the page to see my Achilles Heel, the Pommes Dauphinois. The photograph looked so gloriously delicious, and I thought, perhaps another try is in order.

Pommes Dauphinois
Serves 4

2 tbs olive oil
20g butter
4 shallots, diced
5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.5L pouring cream
6 sprigs of thyme
salt and pepper
8 large Sebago potatoes, peeled

Preheat oven to 180C.
Put the olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan on low heat and cook shallots and garlic until tender.
Add cream and thyme and reduce by 2/3. Season.
Using a mandolin (V-slicer), slice potatoes to 3mm thick. Put into a bowl of water.
Line the base of a 30cm x 30cm baking tray with greased baking paper.
Ladle small amount of cream into dish, top with sliced potatoes, season and repeat unit tray is half full. Cover tray with foil and bake in oven for 1 1/2 hours.

ease: 4/5. Takes a while.
prep time:
30mins - my cream took a while to reduce.
cooking time: 1 & 1/2 hours.
total: 2hours.

taste: 4/5. Finally! Tender potatoes and a creamy sauce. Whilst I under seasoned it a bit, it was still unctuous with sweet hints of garlic and shallots. I would add more thyme as I felt it was slightly overshadowed by the indulgent cream.

8 potatoes is about 4 too many, I do not think the cream would be enough to coat 8 potatoes worth. The instructions are to fill the tray half way - I filled mine to the top and I still had 4 potatoes worth of slices left. I could only find 3 decent shallots at my grocer so that is what I used.

would I make it again: Yes - with a few tweaks here and there this would be perfect.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Pear & chocolate crumble

I pull my woollen cardigan tighter around my shoulders as I plaster cream cheese unto my blueberry bagel. My dog comes in from him morning routine and shakes his body like a tumble dryer drum, spraying the room with a mist of water. I grab a towel and dry him off, leaning over to close the door as the icy breeze numbs my toes and chills my ribs.

The temperature slowly descends through the weeks, preparing us for Winter's bitter embrace. I notice the birds who come to collect the seeds have puffed up their feathers; they too have their winter coats on. I find myself craving chocolate once again - its richness and voluptuous quality wraps itself around me like a warm, cashmere blanket. In the evenings I love to interlock my fingers around a mug of hot chocolate, bringing life to my fingertips and tongue.

This afternoon I had another craving visit, too early to languidly sip its melted form, I wanted something I could sink my teeth into and also cradle in my lap. This crumble looks lusciously inviting, and is quick to make.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 27mins.

taste: 4/5. The chocolate barely covered the pears and although it spread after cooking there wasn't enough chocolate for me, so I would double the amount next time.
The crumble was also a little floury and bland - I would definietely add more butter and brown sugar next time.
The flavours were lovely, the only alteration I made was to use half milk, half dark chocolate on the behest of my husband - I wish I had used dark only though as it was a little weak for me.

would I make it again: Yes - it was really quick and easy, just needs a few tweaks to suit my tastebuds.

recipe: Pear and Chocolate Crumble

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Baklava muffins

Masterchef Australia began this week - and I must say it has been a long time since I looked forward to sitting down and watching a locally produced show on our free-to-air channels. Apart from the name it doesn't really share much of the structure of the UK version I am a fan of. Despite it's slightly more theatrical nature I am delighted to have a food show that showcases Australian produce and chefs.

There really is nothing quite like watching an hour of drool worthy food to get you out of hibernation and into an apron. Even my kitchen-shy husband felt inspired to cook, although that inspiration didn't manifest physically...

Expecting friends for an afternoon spent catching up, I wanted something sweet to eat with a pot of tea and good conversation. Oddly enough, although I have grown up with Greek food there just aren't many Greek sweets that I love. As I often find honey too sweet, I tend pass on desserts like baklava. My husband on the other hand absolutely loves it. I have avoided making it as I like to be able to devour everything I take the time to create. However, when I stumbled upon this recipe I immediately wanted to try it out and perhaps find a baklava inspired dish we will both love.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 15mins.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 30mins.

taste: 4.5/5. It is no surprise that hubby really loved these. I on the other hand, found the texture a little odd - very spongy, not muffin-like at all. The sweetness comes from the honey which helps to bring out the subtle cinnamon and walnuts - without the honey these would be lackluster. I also added 1/4tsp nutmeg to the muffin batter. Overall these are nice with only a little sweetness, although they are a little hard to eat as they stick to the papers.

would I make it again: Yes - might play around with the filling, and perhaps add a little more sugar to the batter.

recipe: Baklava Muffins