Friday, November 30, 2007

Me and Martha, tight, for Now

Double Chocolate Cookies

“So there you have it, Martha and I may see a friendship in the near future after all. I might have to test another disaster-free recipe from her to make that call…”

I never thought the day would come; after spouting some incredibly tepid reviews of Miss Martha’s recipes, who would have thought that a recipe for chocolate cookies could bring her back into the circle of trust?

Double Chocolate Cookies

I know, I know, I’ve been a bit hard on Martha, but when you sport a holier than thou persona, or at least espouse an image of perfection, then there are certain things you must live up to. Like perhaps having recipes that work? Or at least recipes that have even the slightest inkling of success. I have encountered one too many a Martha recipe that was an inch short of rivalling the disaster that was the Titanic. And it seems that I'm not alone in my sentiments.

I don't want to be the one that cries foul upon the hallowed empire of Miss Martha but it appears that not only are her Internet recipes riddled with errors and missing information, but many others have also testified about their lack of success with many of her cookbook recipes, too many in fact.
Is a foolproof recipe too much to ask?

Double Chocolate Cookies

Am I being too harsh? After all, isn't Martha merely human? Well, that's probably debatable and could probably fill another post but one thing I can say is that I've found another one of her recipes that do indeed work. Eureka! I think I can probably even dedicate the remaining lifespan of this blog to finding Martha' recipes that do and don't work. It's almost addictive, like a game of roulette; since all her recipes are such a gamble, will I win or will I lose?

Well this time I can gladly say that it was a win for all. For Martha and for me, and it looks like this fractured relationship that is often times on the rocks than on steady ground could be on the mend. For now, Martha and I are tight. But just like a game of roulette can go awry at the throw of a die, you never know, Martha and I could be on the outs again.

Double Chocolate Cookies

Just like a pair of tempestuous lovers, our roller-coaster ride through her recipe bank is as tumultuous as any affair. Who knows how long I'll stick around. All I can say is I'm addicted to the gamble that are her recipes. But I guess that's enough about what I think of Martha and more about what I think of these cookies. All I can say is that, why didn't I come across these cookies earlier? Had I chanced upon them before my opinion of Martha could have been a lot different.

If this was the first recipe I came across, I wouldn't have been so irate about all the consequent bad ones I had to endure as this would have provided a sufficient buffer. But alas this is probably the eighth Martha-recipe I have attempted and so far only the second success, the first one of course were the the Carrot Cupcakes I blogged about earlier.

Double Chocolate Cookies

However, that said, who would have thought that what I stated a mere month ago would be coming to pass. There you have it, I road tested another Martha recipe and surprisingly it worked. These double chocolate cookies, are beyond good. If you like your cookies soft and chewy then this one is for you. And with the little milk chocolate bits inside, every bite has a meltingly pleasant surprise. Just crisp enough on the edges and gooey in the centre, these cookies are the perfect remedy for when you're in need of a pick me up.

Your man (or woman) may have abandoned you, you may have lost your job, perhaps your car has been towed away and impounded, and your dog could be in a cast after being run over by a truck, but if you have these cookies, you will get a little perspective and know that things could be worse.

And with Christmas just around the corner, what perfect way to bestow some Christmas cheer than with some chocolate love. Tie a festive ribbon around a stack of cookies and voila an instant present to please even the biggest Scrooge.

NOTE: Martha's original recipe called only for milk chocolate. I decided to include bittersweet and milk chocolate.

Double Chocolate Cookies
adapted from this recipe
makes about 3 dozen

Double Chocolate Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp coarse salt
110g bittersweet chocolate (60-70% cacao)
110g milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
110g cup unsalted butter
1½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180°C degrees.
Whisk together flour, cocoa pow
der, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
Melt bittersweet chocolate with the butter in a small heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water; let cool slightly.
Put chocolate mixture, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl and mix until combined.
Gradually fold in the flour in two batches until just incorporated.
Fold in chocolate chunks.
Using a 1½-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart.
Bake until cookies are flat and surfaces crack, about 15 minutes (cookies should be soft).
Let cool on parchment on wire racks.

NOTE: If needed cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 3 days.

Food+Blogga+Cookie+Logo.jpg If you want a piece of some cookie making action then head over to Food Blogga's Eat Christmas Cookie event. And to sweeten the deal, if you participate you could be in the running to win a fantastic cookbook. Click on the link to check out all the details!

Martha, not what she's cracked up to be
Second Chance For Miss Martha

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Raunchy Proposition

Glazed Lemon Tart

I’ve never been one to pander to such indecent propositions; I’m just not that kind of girl, however when this proposal was put forward by Jeanne of Cooksister! in her Waiter, there’s something in my… event, this proposition proved too cheeky to resist. The proposition? Topless Tarts. (Cue burlesque music and feather boa striptease)

I can’t help but give out a little schoolgirl chuckle when saying what the theme is for this month’s WTSIM event. And who can keep a straight face when saying those two words one after the other, topless – tart? I know that it turns me into a giggling juvenile, sniggering as if I were a 10-year old. And I can see you now, attempting to thwart that grin creasing on your face, a million mischievous visions conjured up in your imagination at the mention of a topless tart.

Glazed Lemon Tart with Caramelised Oranges

So I know were talking about topless tarts, but this is still strictly a food blog and I certainly do not want to solicit any questionable material on my site; so make sure you're minds don't somehow stray into the gutter. This post is rated G, so don't get any ideas. The kind of tart I am referring to is the food variety, and the topless part only refers to its lack of a pastry covering.

So I'm sorry to disappoint you if you were looking for a more adult type of tart, but I think this one will appeal to you just as much as the other kind.
It's Glazed Lemon Tart that is less naughty and more nice.

Glazed Lemon Tart up close

I have never been a huge fan of lemon tarts filled with curd, I always find the curd too sharp and acidic and I end up scrunching my face into ridiculous contortions while eating them because I find most curd tarts too sour for my tastes. So as opposed to a lemon tart filled with curd, this lemon tart's filling is sweetened with condensed milk and made light with egg whites.

The result is a feathery-light filling that isn't too sour and is just sweet enough. I did reduce the amount of condensed milk by about 145ml, which just gave the right balance of sweet and sour.
The great thing is this tart is tempting inside and out, the vanilla flecked pastry adds that little bit of oomph to the dessert. And I think the best part is the caramelised crust that provides that little bit of juxtaposition between the spongy filling and crunchy crust. And what better excuse to be using a blowtorch around the kitchen.

Caramelised Oranges

Check out the round up of more topless beauties later this week at Cooksister!

Glazed Lemon Tart with Caramelised Oranges
Recipe adapted from Australian Gourmet Traveller
Serves 8

Glazed Lemon Tart with Caramelised Oranges

SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: Blowtorch (not necessary but advantageous)

185g plain all-purpose flour
120g pure icing (confectioner’s) sugar
115g chilled butter, coarsely chopped
½ vanilla bean, scraped seeds, pod discarded
2 egg yolks

4 egg yolks
250g condensed milk
2 lemons, juiced and with rind finely grated
2 eggwhites
55g (¼-cup) caster sugar, plus extra for dusting

220g (1-cup) caster sugar
1 orange, juiced
30ml Cointreau
4 oranges, thinly sliced

Process flour, icing sugar, butter and vanilla seeds in a food processor until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
Add egg yolks and process until pastry just comes together.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Bring pastry to room temperature.
Lightly grease 8 x round fluted flan tins with removable base.
Roll pastry on a lightly floured surface to 3mm thick and line flan tins, trimming excess pastry, refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Blind bake pastry for 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
Carefully remove baking paper and pastry weights and bake for another 5-10 minutes until crisp, then cool.

Whisk egg yolks in a heatproof bowl over gently simmering water until thick and pale.
Add condensed milk and lemon juice and stir to combine.
Pass through a fine sieve, then add lemon rind.
Using an electric mixer, whisk eggwhites until soft peaks form, then slowly add sugar and whisk on high until sugar has dissolved and meringue is glossy.
Add meringue to lemon mixture and fold gently to combine.
Pour into prepared tart cases and bake for 10 minutes or until centre has just set (don’t let the top colour too much).
Cool, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours or until cold.

For caramelised oranges, combine caster sugar and 200ml water in a saucepan over medium heat, bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes or until golden.
Add orange juice and Cointreau, stirring to dissolve sugar, then pour over sliced oranges in a heatproof bowl.
Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Dust tarts with caster sugar and, using a blowtorch, gently caramelise top. Serve immediately with oranges and double cream.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Pasta Dish To Do Your Chores To

Oricchiette with Eggplant Ragout

For the most part I never knew what a ragu was for a very long time. All my life in fact. When I heard the term ragu, my mind would usually conceive a visual image of something more along the lines of
beef tripe, or something exotic and mildly freakish like ox tongue stew. But it wasn't until I made this pasta dish for a friend that they mentioned this concoction was in fact like a ragu. I gave her a blank stare, as if she had just spoken to me in Elvish or something.

Although traditionally made with ground beef a rugu is essentially a rich tomato based sauce made for pasta that is cooked slowly over low heat. The name is derived from the French ragoƻter, which means to revive or stimulate the taste of. So I guess essentially this pasta sauce has the basic attributes of an Italian ragu, just without the meat.

Oricchiette with Eggplant Ragout

I made this dish on a lazy day-off that I spent doing menial chores. And of all chores I hate doing, laundry is probably the one I detest most. It's not the washing part that annoys me, it's more the hanging the clothes part that is the bore. And because I want to stay eco-friendly, I always like to use the sun whenever possible. So it makes it even more a task having to put all the clothes into a basket, go outside and proceed to hang each item one peg at a time.

I've been known to leave the damp clothes in the laundry basket for hours while I try to force the most minuscule amount of motivation to bring myself to put those clothes on the line. It's a struggle every time. And then there's the part where you have to take the clothes off the line, and it all seems redundant in the end. But I guess clean clothes are a necessity in life.

Oricchiette with Eggplant Ragout

But I later found out that if there was anything that would motivate me to get out and take the time to hang my laundry out on the line, it would have to be this ragu. I guess with any sort of chore, I could get through it with this ragu. See, you can start with the vacuuming, then with the dishes, then with the laundry and just before it's time to take the ragu off the stove, all you need to do is go outside and put those clothes on the line. And by that time you will be smelling the aroma of thick tomato sauce, basil and sweet eggplants bubbling away from the outside. You will have no choice but to make haste back into your house. I know it worked for me. I 've nver hung clothes with that much determination to finish.

Oricchiette with Eggplant Ragout

Next time it comes around to housework, I know what will jolt me into action to get through the most mundane of tasks. With this simple pasta dish waiting at the end of your labour, I don't know what better reward there could be.

If you want you can substitute the eggplant with some shredded or ground meat or if you want the dish to stay vegetarian, then perhaps use zucchini or pumpkin instead.

And if you need more ideas to get you started with pasta dishes why not head over to Presto Pasta Nights at Once Upon a Feast. There's a bevy of pasta recipes that could keep you going for a year. Enjoy!

Orecchiette with Eggplant Ragu
Serves 8

Oricchiette with Eggplant Ragout

1 small brown onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed

5 anchovies
sea salt
6 medium sized eggplants (aubergines), peeled and diced
50g Portobello mushrooms, diced

2 x 400g canned tomatoes

fresh basil leaves

500g orecchiette

extra virgin olive oil

cracked black pepper

Over medium heat, in a large saucepan heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add the onions and fry until onions become translucent.
Add the garlic and anchovies and stir until the anchovies dissolve.

Add sea salt to season, mix for about 2 minutes.
Add the chopped eggplants and mushrooms and cook for about 5 more minutes or until the eggplant begins to soften.

Pour in the canned tomatoes and grab a small handful of fresh basil leaves and add to the mixture, stir to combine.
Leave to simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes.

While ragu is simmering, boil 1 litre of water in a pot.

When water comes to a rolling boil, add a generous amount of sea salt.

Add the orecchiette and cook for the amount of time specified on the package.

Drain and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil before topping with ragu.
Season with cracked black pepper and more sea salt to taste.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What's Cooking, Good Looking?


Baked Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Tomato Sauce

Where has Jen been?
(a) abducted by aliens
(b) living in a monastery at the foot of the Himalayas
(c) joined the army
(d) nursing a hangover
(e) none of the above

The answer is... well mostly E, but for a few days it was D

In case you were wondering, I am alive and I'm all right. I just haven't been blogging. I know. Shock, horror! What do you mean, there couldn't possibly be a life outside of the blogosphere? That's ludicrous!

It seems that real life has been getting in the way of blogging, and even though I haven't been posting at the prodigious rate of my blogging youth (meaning a year ago- 1 blogging year is probably equal to dog years) I have been eating and cooking at pretty much the same rate I was before. It has just been a crazy few weeks with work, helping plan a friend's wedding, planning a friend's birthday, planning my own birthday, Christmas looming and my grandfather passing away a few days ago.

And in case you were wondering the hangovers came from the birthday and the Melbourne Cup drinks we had, I didn't win anything.

So you can imagine I've just been through the whole gamut of emotional states in a mere couple of weeks, and haven't had the time to get my fingers typing on a computer until now. I guess that you cannot really complain when life gets in the way of blogging, it only makes for more blogging fodder later on. But I have been doing okay, and although finding out about my grandfather's death from a stroke was very sudden and unforeseen, I am in good spirits. He lived a great life and I couldn't be any prouder.

Another thing I am pretty proud of is being one of the finalists, for DMBLGIT October. The photograph of my baked gnocchi was one of the picks made by the host her self, the very lovely Jennifer of Bake of Break. So thank you to all the judges and to Jennifer for allowing to me to be part of the illustrious few that get to flaunt the Good Looking Blog badges. So flaunt I will.

Related post: Gnocchi, Two Ways

Monday, November 05, 2007

Grazing On Puffs

Lemon and Zucchini Puffs

What happened to spring? Just as we had become accustomed to the longer days and the prospect of being exposed to copious amounts of UV rays; the sunshine and fair weather plays a game of hide-and-seek. The past week has been incredibly rainy, and I mean the kind of unrelenting rain that falls sideways and no amount of umbrella cover can shield you from its downpour.

If only we could marshal the clouds into one corner of Sydney- over the catchment area that is, and we could still enjoy lovely weather everywhere else. I think that technology is still several years away. So for now all I can do is call out and say- spring come back!

zucchini ribbons

Lemon and Zucchini Puffs

So when stuck at home, craving for a little bit of spring weather the second best thing to do is eat spring. Yes eat spring. I needed a little pick me up to graze on before going out to dinner with a friend and brave the cold and wet outside. This was the perfect thing. Fresh, light and a cinch to make. And odds are most of the ingredients are already in your kitchen, aside from the zucchini that you may have to go out and buy, the rest are stock ingredients that’s in everyone’s pantry.

I know most of you are aware that there is no room in my kitchen for a deep fryer; that real estate will just never be available on my kitchen countertop, but for a little bit of shallow-frying action, I can happily acquiesce in.

Lemon and Zucchini Puffs

And I apologise if this post is sounding a little lax and uninspired but it’s just been one of those days, week even, where all you want to do is run for the covers, grab a DVD and some of these puffs and literally fritter the night away.

Perhaps I’ll be a little more enthused when the sun perks up from its slumber. But as for now, I’m revelling in this opportunity to lounge and laze and until spring comes back and hoists me out this recliner.

Lemon and Zucchini Puffs

If you're interested in frittering away too, here is the recipe.

Lemon and Zucchini Puffs
from Donna Hay Magazine Issue 35
makes 8

Lemon and Zucchini Puffs

3 x 150g large zucchini (courgettes) shaved into ribbons
¼ cup thinly sliced mint leaves
3 eggs
¼ cup self-raising flour
sea salt and cracked black pepper
vegetable oil for shallow-frying

2 egg yolks
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 garlic clove crushed
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup olive oil

Place egg yolks, vinegar, garlic, lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor and process until combined.
Gradually pour in the oil while the motor is still running and process until the mixture is thick and smooth.

Place the zucchini, mint, eggs, flour, salt and pepper in a bowl and stir well to combine.
Heat 1cm of oil in a large non-stick frypan over medium heat.
Add about 2 tablespoonfuls of the mixture and shallow-fry in batches for 1-2 minutes each side or until puffed up and golden.
Serve with lemon aioli.