Monday, August 27, 2007

Quintessential Winter

Maple Flan with Pears

No matter what the weather is, most of us somehow find a way to find fault, grumble and whine about it. It’s always either too hot, too cold, too sunny, too windy, too wet, too sticky. And I admit, I am usually a prime suspect for such behaviour; in the winter I moan about how I can never get warm enough and then come December and the Sydney summer descends on us and I complain about how insufferably hot it is.

The weather has always been a talking point, a conversation starter I guess, and why should it be different on this blog. You have probably heard me complain several times about how cold and wet it has been the past few months and I bet you’re sick of it. Well before you leave, I should mention that this time I have nothing to complain about. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Sydney’s weather today was as perfect as the proverbial postcard.


But before winter is all done and dusted, I thought I would make her one last meal to send her off in style before she makes her way up into the northern hemisphere. For me, there are certain words that epitomises winter, and no they aren't “cold” or “snow”. One word is curry, then there is pudding, and the other is custard. Quintessential Sydney winter, I think, starts and ends with one or perhaps even all of these words and I know that my winter is never complete without them.

I think it’s quite obvious why these are considered, well by me anyway, winter fodder. They pretty much are equivalent to having a furnace in your belly; they are classic winter warmers, full of fatty goodness. And if you are somewhat inclined to having yourself a little bit of fatty goodness (in wintertime), well let me introduce you to this maple crème flan.

Maple Flan

Now, if you aren’t inclined to having yourself a little bit of fatty goodness then don’t be disheartened, it’s rich but it’s not heart attack inducing. It’s more likely to give you a toothache or a sugar rush than anything else.

I love the smoothness of custard, especially baked custards like flans and crème brulee. They are like the suave, debonair cousins of the crème anglaise. This flan, I warn can get a bit too sweet, and I wouldn’t even be opposed to reducing the amount of maple syrup in the future. But saccharine overindulgence aside, the flan does have a depth of flavour that you can't get with simple sugar. It's the the lushness of the maple syrup that gives this flan that depth.

Pears and Custard

When you overturn the wobbly custard onto a plate you will smell with giddy excitement the scent of pure maple syrup, cream and eggs coming together to produce something so ethereally good, it’s almost criminal. But to stray from harping on with one superlative after another, all I can say is that this flan is good, it’s great in fact. But moderation is the key.

I used buerre bosc pears, which you might be familiar with from a few posts ago. They are the best looking pears out right now with their beautiful brown russeted peel and their spongy but firm flesh. They are perfect for poaching and if you accidentally leave them too long to overripe, then it’s all the more reason to poach them.

These pears might seem like the supporting act for this maple custard but it's to the contrary. The pears serve a purpose, in that it cuts out a lot of the flans cloying sweetness. Whoever made this recipe must have known how potent the sweetness of maple can be, and if you have second thoughts about including the pear then think again. The pear becomes a welcome companion after a few spoonfuls of the custard.

Pears soaked in maple syrup

Well, you might remember I attended their soiree last year but they having another one this year! Ivonne and Lis are hosting another round of La Festa Al Fresco. This custard with the glazed buerre bosc pears are what I am contributing to the shindig and what I am offering up as a last hoorah for the end of the winter season here in the southern hemisphere. Soon enough we will be saying hello to spring!

This is a feast of everything fresh and in season whatever hemisphere you are from, so go and check out what everyone else has cooked up after the 3rd of September and meanwhile, here is the recipe for the maple creme flans.

Maple Crème Flan with Maple-Glazed Pears

Serves 10

Maple Flan with Pears

NOTE: It is recommended that you start making the custard one day before serving.

¾ cup pure maple syrup
3½ cups whipping cream
7 large egg yolks
a pinch of salt

½ cup sugar
¼ cup water
½ teaspoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3 ripe Bartlett pears, unpeeled, quartered, cored
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Simmer maple syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until reduced to ½-cup, about 7 minutes.
Stir in cream; return to simmer.
Whisk egg yolks in large bowl to blend.
Gradually whisk in hot cream mixture.
Whisk in salt.
Strain custard into another large bowl.
Cover and chill until cold, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 150°C.
Stir sugar, water, and maple syrup in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase heat and boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber colour, occasionally brushing down sides of pan with wet pastry brush and swirling pan, about 6 minutes.
Pour syrup into 10 rectangular, 10 x 5cm ceramic dishes, tilting pan carefully to coat sides. Let stand 10 minutes.

Pour custard into pan with syrup.
Place all the dishes in large roasting pan.
Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of loaf pan.
Cover roasting pan with foil and pierce foil all over with fork.
Bake flan 1 hour 45 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 170°C in the last 45 minutes of baking. Uncover and bake until flan is set around edges but center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken.
Remove flan from water. Transfer to rack; cool to room temperature.
Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Melt butter in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.
Arrange pears, 1 cut side down, in skillet. Cook until brown, about 4 minutes.
Turn onto second cut side and cook until brown, about 4 minutes longer.
Stir in maple syrup; bring to boil.
Place in oven and bake until pears are tender, about 25 minutes.
Using slotted spoon, transfer pears to plate.

Run sharp knife around edge of flan to loosen.
Invert flan onto platter. Surround with pears and sauce.

NOTE: You can have the flan warm of slightly chilled. If you are serving them chilled, then simply heat the bottom of the dishes with some boiling hot water to looses then syru at the bottom to make for easier unmoulding.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Flip It Like It's Hot(cake)

Coffee hotcakes with Rosy Red Oranges and maple syrup

As for me the notion of breakfast, as a meal, generally oscillates between the comfort of routine and the pleasure of ceremony. Somehow, you can have the same thing for breakfast everyday and it’s no drama, as if we need to start the day with one constant before we are hit by all the variables that follow throughout. Then there is the ritual of the café breakfast, now that’s another thing.

We’ve made it somewhat of a sport to go out for breakfast here in Sydney, and if you are even trendier or sporting a hangover on a Saturday morning, it’s brunch. But it seems that the café breakfast, no matter what time of day is experiencing a revival. Before, it seemed rather preposterous that you would even leave your house at such an early hour to go and have breakfast out, when you can have a perfectly good one at home, but times are a changing. Nowadays, the hottest thing in Sydney’s eateries is the breakfast menu and I’m not the only one who has noticed.

Rosy red orange peel

But then again who can maintain such an addiction? As much as I do love the idea of breakfast out everyday, my hip pocket simply isn’t big enough. And besides, sometimes, all I want for breakfast is a good warm bowl of porridge and nice cup of tea. I know there was once upon a time, when I was about ten, or maybe even twelve when all I wanted for breakfast was chorizo and toast. This craving lasted for weeks and I remember my mum stocking up with containers of chorizo in our freezer just to keep up with my morning appetite.

I’ve now kicked that nagging chorizo habit in the mornings, and have move on to something else. I love pancakes or are they hotcakes, well either one. I’ve done pancakes/hotcakes at many a Sydney eatery; there were the nutella pancakes at La Plage, of course Bill’s ricotta hotcakes, sourdough ones from Brasserie Bread (which I highly recommend) and there were the hotcakes at Fifi Foveaux’s, which I might add are preferable to Bill’s- sorry Bill. But now it’s time to take the hotcake back to my own kitchen.

Cooking hotcakes

Setting down a plate of hotcakes at my own dining table didn’t have the same allure as eating them out at some café, but the taste was certainly enough to distract me from my humble surroundings. I made coffee flavoured hotcakes (or are they pancakes?) with some rosy red oranges and a drizzling of maple syrup. And to sound crudely cliché- it was simple and satisfying. Which I guess is what everyone looks for in a breakfast; I’ve never seen anyone sit down for a three course breakfast and whoever has the time to do so should really re evaluate how they spend it. Breakfast can be familiar and breakfast can be unchanging, but it should never be boring, or convoluted.

As for these hotcakes, well let their taste speak and that heady aroma of coffee in the kitchen for themselves. Then perhaps you can sit down and contemplate whether you are eating hotcakes or pancakes because I really don’t know the difference between the two and truth be known, I really don’t care, as long as they taste great.

Coffee Hotcakes with Rosy Red Oranges

adapted from Delicious Magazine, June 2005
serves 4

Coffee hotcakes with Rosy Red Oranges and maple syrup

1 1/3 cups (200g) self-raising flour
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbs golden caster sugar
1 egg, separated
200g Greek yoghurt
200ml milk
20g unsalted butter, melted, plus extra to brush

To serve
Rosy red oranges, peeled and segmented
Icing sugar, to dust
Maple syrup or honey

Sift the flour, soda and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the coffee and sugar.
In a separate bowl, beat together the egg yolk, yoghurt, milk and melted butter.
Beat in the dry ingredients.
Place the eggwhite in a separate bowl and whisk until soft peaks form.
Fold the eggwhites into the batter.
Brush a non-stick frypan with melted butter and place over medium-high heat.
Drop 1/4 –cup of mixture into the pan for 1-2 minutes until golden.
Flip over and cook for a further minute until golden on other side.
Transfer to a baking tray loosely covered with foil, and keep warm in a low oven while you make the remaining hotcakes.
Serve 2-3 hotcakes per person with some sliced rosy red oranges.
Drizzle with some maple syrup or honey and dust with icing sugar.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This Cookie's A Winner

Lavender shortbread

Even though this is all wrapped up in pretty blue ribbon, no, this isn’t the surprise I was talking about before. I know some of you have been anticipating with bated breath what this surprise is. And I do hope that it eventually lives up to all this hype I have inadvertently bestowed it with. But I just have to find the time to make it, just for the simple fact that I don’t want to rush it. I only a have a small portion of the stuff, so I must be cautious lest I ruin it and have nothing to show.

So it will have to wait until later in the week, as I have a packed schedule these next two days filled with birthdays, dinners and soirées. It’s just as well that I love to eat (and drink), as I would tire of all these shindigs. But, alas, that surprise must wait. Don’t worry I am itching to create something new

But here is something I made earlier.

Lavender portraits

If you like all things pretty, then for me, lavender is usually what comes to mind; its delicate lilac blossoms, its fragrant aroma and it's beautiful velvety stems. It seems that when you add lavender to anything, it almost instantly becomes pretty. Lavender's allure has captured me again, and this time the creation isn't too far from what I had made before.

If you are thinking that the recipe looks familiar, then you have probably seen it before on Kelli's Lovescool. I adapted her recipe from her award winning recipe for Green Tea Sweets. All I changed was the green tea flavouring and replaced it with lavender, but other than that the recipe is based on Kelli's original creation. I am so glad that she decided to share the recipe with us, as I am making it my base shortbread recipe from which I will probably make other variations from.

Lavender Shortbread

What's so good about her recipe? Well not only is it so simple to make, but the shortbread keeps it shape even after baking. Some shortbread recipes I have made, I've found, loses certain details in it shape because the cookies tend to spread. The great thing about this recipe is that the shortbread barely, if at all spreads in the oven while baking and keeps their shape perfectly, and so allows you to cut some more detailed shapes from your dough.

As for the taste. Well, I have been looking for a "go-to" shortbread recipe, and for some time, I did settle on a Donna Hay recipe, but its long reign is over because Kelli's shortbread recipe has toppled Miss Hay's off the throne. It's amazing how the combination of flour, sugar and butter, in slight variations and ratios can create something completely different. As essentially, shortbread, like many other cookies, are a combination of flour, sugar and butter, but it's the different ratios of these ingredients that create something either genius or inedible.

Lavender in focus

This combination of flour, sugar and butter not only tastes incredible, but it's has been deemed worthy of the title of best bakery recipe. And I can see why. The original green tea recipe, I found, is quite adaptable and I can just imagine endless variations, this probably isn't the last you have seen of these cookies.

And if you are looking for ideas for favours or presents, I think these cookies even have the sophistication to be used for weddings and birthdays. That's if you have the patience and the time to make them and wrap them up in pretty little pouches. It is definitely worth all the effort though. It beats the classical, yet worn out sugared almonds on your wedding day, I'm sure your guests would be delighted to receives these cookies as a gift.

lavender stalks

As far as shortbreads go, this one is hard to beat. Its blissful buttery texture that melts in your mouth, its aromatic sweetness and its frosted sugar-coating, it's the perfect thing to satiate any sweet tooth's appetite. And what better way to share some love than with a bunch of these cookies, it's as good as getting a bunch of flowers.

Lavender Shortbread

adapted from this award-winning recipe
makes 15 flower shapes

Lavender shortbread

¾ cup (2.25 oz) icing (confectioner’s) sugar
1 tbsp dried lavender
140g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 tsp lemon zest
1¾ cup (8.5 oz) plain all-purpose flour
3 large egg yolks
1 cup granulated sugar (for coating)

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Whisk the confectioner’s sugar and lavender together in a bowl.
Add the butter, lemon zest and lavender/sugar mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix until smooth and light in colour.
Add the flour and mix until well combined.
Add the egg yolks and mix just until the eggs are fully incorporated and a mass forms.
Form the dough into a disk and chill in the refrigerator until firm (about 30 minutes).
Roll the dough out to 1.5cm thickness.
Cut the dough with a cookie cutter.
Toss each cut cookie in a bowl of granulated sugar to coat.
Place the sugar-coated cookie on a parchment lined pan.
Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until slightly golden around the edges.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Market Favourite Creates Splash At Home


What? Another yeast concoction?

Yes, that's right, I am finally getting my yeast legs, and just like like that little mound of dough that expands and increases in size, more and more my confidence with working with yeast is growing. I've never been happier. I've never had this much repeated success with yeast before, it's unprecedented!

Now I know how it really feels to work that pliable dough in your very own hands, kneading, pulling and stretching those protein strands to elasticity, wow. I know it sounds awfully food-geeky of me but it was really thrilling, I can see why bakers are so willing to get up so early for their craft, this dough-business is definitely worth it.

Workin' the dough

Okay, okay, I promise I will start to control my elation; I can feel most of you are slowly starting to back away from the crazy girl enthusing fanatically about dough and yeast. I'm dropping the ball of dough and my hands are up in the air.

These new yeasty concoctions are Turkish Gozlemes, which are basically filled flat breads that are folded over and grilled on an oiled hotplate. If you go to any of the Sydney markets or festivals you will have most probably seen them there. They are ubiquitous; every event you attend, they seem to have a stand. And not that I am complaining because it is probably one of the cheapest most satisfying feeds you can get. And the great thing is you can even eat it standing up and there's plenty to share. Not that I have ever had to share, we all seem to understand that we get our own plate and are responsible for polishing off that entire plateful and no one has ever complained about it.


You watch those robust Turkish ladies rolling, folding, grilling those gozlemes, and it is almost mesmerising. Like a well-oiled machine their gozleme production line churns out one flat bread after another for the ravenous mob that still continue to queue up even when the line snakes past a few other other stalls. That picture is all too familiar because it seems to be the same thing at every market at every stall, hordes and hordes of people lining up for these beauties.

Well what if you wanted to make them at home? Skip the middle man, skip the long wait and cavalcade of other flat bread admirers. Can you get the same result, minus the Turkish ladies? My answer is yes indeed.

Turkish Gozleme- Spinach and Feta

I never knew how easy it was to make these market favourites at home. Fair enough, the process might be a little labour intensive, as you have to roll out the dough and fill and grill every single one, but it is worth all that effort. And even when the effort expended to make the gozlemes far exceeds the effort it takes to eat them, they are still worth it.

Okay, now that I have told you about the gozlemes, let's have another look at that dough. Isn't she lovely? I still can't believe, it was I that made it.


Spinach and Feta Gozleme

Recipe adapted from Super Food Ideas, February 2006
Serves 4

Turkish Gozleme- Spinach and Feta

3 cups “00” Italian flour
8g sachet instant dried yeast
pinch of salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1/3 cup olive oil (see tip)
1 bunch English spinach
200g feta cheese, crumbled
lemon wedges, to serve

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt and sugar.
Add 300ml tepid water and olive oil and stir with a fork until the liquid has taken up all the flour.
Knead the dough for 5 minutes until elastic and form into a ball.
Place back into the bowl and cover with plastic film.
Stand in a warm place and allow the dough to prove for 30 minutes to an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Once the dough has proved, cut the ball into four portions. Keep the dough you aren’t using under cover.
Roll each piece of dough out into a circle the size of a large dinner plate.
Place a quarter of the spinach over half of the circle and then top with feta.
Fold the dough over and enclose the filling by pinching the edges together.
Preheat a flat hotplate, or a large frypan on medium-high heat.
Brush the bottom of the gozleme with olive oil and place on the hotplate.
Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the dough becomes crisp and golden brown.
Turn over and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cut the gozleme into 6 pieces using a pizza cutter.
Serve with lemon wedges.

Tip: Try rice bran oil instead of olive oil. This versatile oil is high in antioxidants and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Waiting For a Friend Cost Me Money

Pure Cacao Tablets

I was at the organic market this week and was just browsing through the aisles while waiting for a friend to turn up to lunch. I wasn't intending on buying anything but there's something about the consumer in me that just cannot resist certain things.

I'm all about aesthetics, if it looks good then it has my attention straight away. Things that look unusual or cute have me at hello. So by the time I set foot outside the store, in my clutches were a few impulsive buys and I had somehow ended parting with $13.75. Something I didn't intend on doing at all. I never thought that waiting for a friend would cost me money.

Not that $13.75 is at all steep, but I am supposed to be on a strict financial diet as I am saving for an overseas trip- every cent counts. And it is becoming more and more apparent that impulse spending is my most wicked vice. This is what I bought.

Firstly, the picture above is a roll of cacao and sugar tablets that you can dissolve in milk and turn into hot chocolate. My mum uses it to make champorado, which is a sort of Filipino chocolate rice pudding. It's quite good to drink as plain hot chocolate as well. It's not overly sweet like those conventional hot chocolate ready mixes and still maintains a little bitterness from the cocoa.

Lyle's Golden Syrup

This here is Lyle's Golden Syrup. I loved the vintage looking tin that it came in and even though it was whole dollar more than the golden syrup you can buy at the supermarket, I was persuaded by its beautiful Victorian inspired tin and the trademark on the front- a lion surrounded by a swarm of bees that said, "out of the strong came forth sweetness". I thought it was quite endearing and so it went into the shopping basket.

The golden syrup does differ slightly from your supermarket, $1-less brands, but only very slightly. I mean how different can sugar taste right? Sugar's pretty much sugar. Lyle's golden syrup's sweetness is quite subtle and it's sweetness isn't as cloying as perhaps some supermarket versions, it's almost more like honey than just merely inverted sugar. But really, I would gladly settle for any brand of golden syrup if Lyle's wasn't there to beguile me with it's antique green and gold tin.

The great thing with Lyle's is that the tin isn't just some sort of marketing ploy to lure hapless victims- like me- into buying something that's made to look iconic. The great thing is that Lyle's history dates back to 1883, so at least they have the heritage to back up those pretty little tins, as they have kept the same design that was launched in the 1880's.

If you want to know more about Lyle's and its history check out their website.


The other thing I bought was this teeny tiny wheel of camembert cheese, aptly named Babybert, it's from the Barossa Valley Cheese Co. The caption on the label reads " a mini white mould cheese with hints of mushroom aromas". I've learned that when it comes to cheese, "mushroom aromas" is almost code for funky feet smell, and I was right. The cheese does have a slightly pungent aroma, that is definitely earthy and hearty, and to admit I wasn't much of a fan of its odour, although the cheese tastes quite good. The white rind is quite stiff although inside the cheese is soft. And at least you won't feel too guilty for eating a whole wheel of camembert, the babybert only weighs about 40g.

And the last thing I bought is something I really want to share with you all but I'm afraid I have to restrain myself and leave it for another post when I think up something to make with them. I promise you, it won't disappoint but it's all hush-hush for now. One thing I will say about them is that, it's the first time I have come across them in Sydney and they are not even in season.

Hmm.... what could it be? You will have to come back to find out.
But one thing I will share with you is how I used some of that lovely golden syrup I got from Lyle's.

granny smith apple

Apples are the perfect winter fruit and the beautiful thing is that we are still enjoying the best of winter produce without all that inhospitable winter weather. I just love living in Sydney where winters are so short-lived. What I made was a simple Caramel Apple Pudding. I am in the midst of an obsession with caramel right now. Anything with burnt sugar I am craving for.

Even when winter already seems so far away, and the days seem to get warmer as we speak, the nights are still fairly chilly and this pudding is just the remedy to warm your from the inside out. I made these with some granny smith apples that had been sitting in the fridge for a while now, but the great thing is that even if the apples are becoming slightly soft and spongey, you can still use them for this recipe as you want the apples to be cooked throughout.

Caramel Apple Pudding

Caramel Apple Pudding
from Delicious Magazine July 2005
serves 6

5 large golden delicious or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, sliced ½cm thick
1 2/3 cups (250g) plain all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
180g unrefined caster sugar
200ml milk
150g unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup (200g) light muscovado sugar or light brown sugar
½ cup (125ml) golden syrup
Icing sugar and thick cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Lightly butter a 2.5-litre baking dish.
Place apples in the prepared dish.
Sift flour and baking powder into the bowl of an electric mixer, add caster sugar, milk, butter and egg, then beat until pale.
Spread mixture over the apples.
Place muscovado or brown sugar, golden syrup and 300ml water in a saucepan.
Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then bring to the boil without stirring.
Pour over the pudding batter, then bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is golden.
Dust with icing sugar and serve with cream.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A Sticky Pudding To End Your Life With

Sticky Date Pudding

A few weeks ago, the people behind Chew On That asked me one of the hardest questions I’ve ever been asked in my life, and this is no overstatement. The question left me stumped. The question was “what would your last supper be?”

I can see some of you already going into blank stares, lost in thought about which gastronomic fare you would bookend your life with. Sounds rather morose I know, but don’t let me interrupt that pensive state you are already in and let me ask you this same question. When faced with the last supper of your life, what would you get the chef to cook up? What would be the perfect culinary ending to your life? What after tastes do you want lingering on your tongue as you enter the after life?

Spoonful of Sugar

I had to tell the ever so patient people at Chew On That, that I needed some time to think about it, and even when presented with the deadline, I gave them the first thing that came off the top of my head. The thing is, my last supper was far from my mind, it’s not something one thinks about while day dreaming or even in their everyday thought. It’s not something I have even planned and want to plan, but nonetheless the question is a good one.

My answer was quite simple and succinct- my dad’s chicken curry with rice and a sticky date pudding for dessert. You might be thinking, is that all? I thought she was going to come up with something more meaningful and esoteric. But truth be known there is no overly existential and enigmatic reason for choosing what I did. I just drew from the imaginary inventory of meals and tried to pick out which one I would never tire of. Curry is always a hearty classic for me, and with some warm, moist rice, it’s the perfect overture into eternity and the pudding would just cap off what a great life it has been.

Four Takes- Sticky Date Pudding

The sticky date pudding is an Australian favourite; you can find it on the menu at cafes, bistros and fine dining establishments alike with many variations and meanderings. But the classic pud with sauce is how I like it best, and sweet is the only way to go of course. I have been looking for a “go-to” sticky date pudding recipe for some time now and it is only recently that I have found one that I am affixed to. It’s Neil Perry’s recipe from his cookbook Good Food, and is quite simple to make.

Perry states that, “this is everything you expect and more. Incredibly rich and full on- but if you can handle it, you will be hooked forever.” He couldn’t have been more right. The flavour is intense; obviously it tastes of dates, which obviously means that it’s sweet, really sweet, probably even too sweet. But if you look beyond all that saccharine overkill, there is a real depth of flavour that is sometimes missing from most sticky puds.

Caramel Oozes

When I am cooking for others though, I do reduce the sugar by about 50-75g. Also, Perry doesn’t mention anything about it on the recipe, but I also puree the dates using a hand blender, just so that the end result turns out a smooth and consistent crumb. You can bake the puddings in individual moulds if you are using them for a dinner party so the all you need to do is unmould them and pour the sauce over. Also he suggests reheating them in the oven if need be, but I found zapping them in the microwave for a few seconds is just as effective.

So if you do decide to try this pudding, beware it sweetness. It very well might become your last meal.

Neil Perry’s Sticky Toffee Pudding

from his cookbook Good Food
serves 8

10 fresh dates, about 230g, pitted and chopped

250ml water
1 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
100g unsalted butter, softened
175g caster sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
150g self-raising flour, sifted
thick (double/heavy) cream

500ml thick (double/heavy) cream
110g Demerara sugar
2 tbsp treacle or molasses

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease a 27 x 15 x 6cm deep loaf (bar) tin and line the base and sides with baking paper.
Place the dates and 250ml water into a pan and bring to the boil over medium heat.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the bicarb soda- the mixture will begin to bubble up. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Add the vanilla and beat until combined.
Fold the flour and the date mixture alternatively into the butter mixture.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake for 50 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

To make the sauce, combine the cream, sugar and treacle in a small pan and stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly.

To serve, turn the warm pudding out onto a platter and drizzle with half the sauce.
Cut the pudding into thick slices or squares and serve with the remaining sauce and thick cream.
If the pudding needs to be reheated, cover it with foil and place it in a 150°C oven for 30 minutes, or until heated through.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Mushroom and Gorgonzola Rotini

Mushroom and Gorgonzola Rotini

As promised, here is the recipe for the mushroom pasta I made yesterday for lunch using the fabulous hunk of cheese I bought at the markets . On a lazy Saturday afternoon, the last thing you want to do is linger too long in the kitchen. Now, this pasta is so simple and so easily modified that I don't even know if I should provide you a recipe. You could almost make it up as you go, I did. But here it goes.

I used the regular swiss brown mushrooms you can find at any supermarket for this dish as that is what I had in the fridge, but really you can use any mushroom you want. If I were to make this again, I am imagining some porcini, chanterelles, oysters, or if you happen to be very lucky or loaded, you can lace the pasta with shavings of fresh truffle. Divine.

You can't tell from the picture above but the sauce becomes a beautiful seafoam green and is quite runny in consistency. The taste is quite strong because of the gorgonzola, and if you don't want such a prominent cheese taste then you can up the cream or better yet, just lessen the cheese. I didn't add any salt as the cheese gave enough saltiness, but if you think it needs a bit of salt you can add a pinch or two, or even add a spoonful of parmesan cheese instead. I decided to sprinkle more gorgonzola crumbs over the pasta so that as you are eating you are surprised by little bursts of cheese.


Also, you can even replace the pasta with penne or macaroni. It just so happened that I had this rotini in the pantry just ready to be cooked. Rotini is just the fancy Italian name for the spiral-shaped pasta.

Mushroom and Gorgonzola Rotini
serves 4

500g pack Spiral Pasta
olive oil
200g swiss brown mushrooms, sliced lenthways
1 tsp thyme, dried or fresh
1 clove garlic, chopped roughly
100g gorgonzola cheese, cubed (you can leave some extra to sprinkle over)
125ml pouring (single) cream
freshly grated nutmeg
salt for boiling
pepper to taste

salt or parmesan cheese if required

Boil a litre of water in a large pot and add salt when the water comes to a rolling boil.
Cook the pasta al dente, according to package instructions.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil.
Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook for 30 seconds, then add the garlic.
When the mushrooms have softened, reduce the heat and add the cheese and stir until melted.
Add the cream and continue to stir until the sauce thickens.
Remove from heat and add the pasta and mix through the sauce.
Grate some fresh nutmeg over the top.
Add salt or parmesan cheese if needed
(Optional- sprinkle some crumbled gorgonzola over the pasta)
Add freshly ground black pepper before serving.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Good Living Pyrmont Grower's Market: August

Lavender bunch

My hands, brimming with newly bought wares were slowly getting tired. Two bags on each hand, a bunch of flowers clutched under an armpit and a handbag slung over the other shoulder. I don't remember having to walk so far to get to the markets. Especially when I got there just a half hour after it opened. I thought I was early enough, but judging by how far I had to park it was clear that the markets was the place to be this morning.

Yes, that's right, it's the Good Living Grower's Market at Pyrmont again. It's been a bit of a spell since I last posted about these market- I was busy and sick the past few Saturdays, but this time I was determined not to miss it. Besides, with a winter's morning so hospitable as this, how could I resist?

The first thing I passed was a floral stall that for some reason is tucked away in a corner apart from most of the other stalls. If it weren't for the fact that I entered this way and its convivial proprietor and perhaps the chocolate truffle stall nearby, I don't think I would have passed it at all. But I much prefer their flowers to the larger flower stand on the other end of the market. But anyway, I got this bunch of lavender from them and its tender lilac blossoms are just the thing to brighten up my room.


If you're looking for photos of the markets, well there's none. I don't have any pictures as I was at the markets sans my handy market assistant who usually carries all my food stuffs. I had been deprived of being able to indulge in the sheer pleasure of market shopping that I decided to forgo the photo taking to concentrate on actual shopping. But here is a little sneak peek into some of the things I bought.

First up is a market staple of mine, Consummate's Olive Flatbread. It's crusty, yeasty, and is dotted with rows of black olives. I'm a sucker every time. If you have never tried this bread let me describe it to you. The crust is beautifully blistered and chewy while the interior is soft and fluffy and lightly tainted with hints of saltiness from the juices of the olives that have seeped into it. It can get a bit messy to eat but that's half the fun.

Olive Flatbread

Also from Consummate is this adorable cake- an apple and rhubarb mini cake. Don't be fooled by its meagre size, this little cake packs a punch. The cake itself is quite dense and moist and the fruit topping is chunky. They don't hold back with the flavours either, sweet apple and tart rhubarb, its the perfect tasty treat for the morning.

Apple and Rhubarb Cake

And I was so delighted to see that my favourite winter stall was back again. I thought they would never return but it turns out that these oranges ripen late winter so that's why they seemed a bit non-existent at the beginning of the season. The Rosy Red Oranges are my favourite oranges to eat, and what's not to like about them? These oranges have it all- their juicy, their incredibly sweet and is packed with more vitamin C than any other orange. This variety is actually a cross between a Ruby Grapefruit and Navel Oranges, and if they look familiar, it's because I posted about them last winter as well.

Rosy Red Oranges

After reading a recent article in SMH's Good Living about cheese in Australia, Serge Dansereau makes a statement that I think most might concur with, "Real foodies will always get excited about cheese." I don't often post about cheese, I don't know why although I cannot deny the fact that seeing a fresh wheel of cheese just begging to be sliced open excites me. I think it's because great cheese and cheese-making in particular embodies the central tenets to good eating and cooking- excellent produce, attention to detail and passion.

I never liked gorgonzola before. The first time I ate it was at a restaurant in Darling Harbour and I have to say, I almost vomited. It's taste was just too strong and peculiar for my layman's palate and I wasn't sure if I was ever going to give it a second chance. But after watching some non-descript cheese show on the food channel, that happened to feature gorgonzola, I knew it was time to give it an opportunity to redeem itself. After being engrossed by the entire program and seeing the amount of time and work, and not to mention the history that goes with the cheese, I was repentant that I even turned my nose up at it.

Gorgonzola Picante

This here is the gorgonzola picante, the stronger and sharper of the two types of gorgonzola and definitely the most pungent. Genuine gorgonzola is aged in limestone caves that produces the specific spores of the mold that give the cheese the blue veining
that is characteristic of the cheese and really makes it what it is. I ended up making a mushroom and gorgonzola pasta dish for lunch later that day.

I not only bought the gorgonzola, but today I decided to splash out on cheese. And I mean splash out. This cheese costs $100/kg! And with only $10 cash left in the wallet all I could splash out on was a 95g sliver. And when I say sliver, I really mean sliver.

What makes the Testun Occelli unique is it's casing which is made of the wine must of the Barolo grape. Basically the cheese is encased in the leftover grape skins and seeds from the process of wine making. It makes for a smooth, medium hard cheese that's crumbly to the touch. It's taste is quite sharp, although there are hints of sweetness. It's probably the most extravagant I've been with cheese and if I only get to taste it once, it was well worth it.

Testun Occelli al Barolo

And lastly, one of the friends I have made through these markets are the Australian Honey Cellar people. They have a great stall filled with an enormous array of Australian honey that is harvested in country NSW. It's always a delight to come by their stall and today I was even more elated when De presented me with my favourite product of theirs- the Tasmanian Leatherwood. I've talked about the Tassie Leatherwood before here and there really isn't a better way to end my market experience than with a slice of fresh honeycomb.

LinkTasmanian Leatherwood Honeycomb

Next up: The recipe for the Mushroom and Gorgonzola Rotini I made for lunch. It's so easy!

Friday, August 03, 2007

8 Quick Random Facts About: Me and Pears

Pear and Hazelnut Bread Pudding

In my grand tradition of responding to memes dutifully tardy, here is my response to Kelly, Myriam and Jerry’s tag of 8 things you didn't know about me. And to keep this post somewhat food related and to also provide a smooth segue into the following pear and hazelnut recipe, I thought I would share some quick facts about pears as well. (The pear facts come from all over the Internet)

She was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Australia when she was six with her family. She has called Australia home since then.

Pears that are left to ripen on the tree will turn mealy and unappetising. So most ears are actually picked before they are ripe and are left to ripen in the shop or at home.

Jen once had to get stitches in her cranium when she was about 5, after an unfortunate mishap while trying to prove she was old enough to bathe herself. To avoid being too graphic, all I will say is that she put her head under a faucet when the accident occurred.

A flavourful pear will actually have brown speckles on the skin, known as “russeting,” which enhance the flavour of the pear.

In the same year, Jen almost had to get stitches in her chin, after another unfortunate sporting accident where she miscalculated the trajectory of an incoming ball and consequently dove in to catch it only to find the ball falling about a foot from where her chin eventually hit the ground. Ouch!
As you can see Jen is pretty accident prone.

Pears contain no cholesterol, sodium, or saturated fat!

Jen and some of her mischievous friends in Year 9 got caught skipping school a number of times and had to stay back and scrape gum off the bottom of the desks. A friend's dad (who we thought was the coolest) actually helped us by picking us up from school after detention and telling our parents that we had some sort of after school study group. To this day our parents have no clue. Maybe up until now, sorry Mum.

How do you judge a pear’s ripeness? Apply gentle thumb pressure near the base of the stem. If it yields to gentle pressure it's ripe. Others simply tug on the stem; when it comes out, it's ready to eat.

Pear and Hazelnut Bread Pudding

Inadvertently ended up in the local newspaper when she was in Year 6. The newspaper was doing an article about the first ever students to use the internet at school. What really happened was, the group of boys who actually were the ones who used the Internet were away at a football match so our teacher said that we could go in on their behalf and alas, our photographs ended up in the newspaper.

A pear is a nutrient dense food, providing more nutrients per calorie, than calories per nutrient.

Jen secretly loves to eat Nutella and peanut butter straight out of the jar. It's kind of embarrassing, but everyone has their vices and this is her Achilles heel. So let's just keep that one to ourselves okay.

Pears will ripen faster if placed next to bananas in a fruit bowl and they stay fresh for longer if kept in a fridge.

Another food fact about Jen is that she cannot stand to eat cereal of any kind in the morning. But come night time, it's cereal all the way. She must have some sort or glitch in her internal body clock or something.

In some Eastern cultures, pears are also known as the fruit of planning. People who consume pears are believed to have superior organisational skills.

Jen hates to drive. She prefers to be the passenger and will find any excuse not to drive anywhere.

Levulose, which is the sweetest known natural sugar, is found to a greater extent in fresh pears than in any other fruit.

And if you want to know some more bizarre things about this blogger, then check out this meme about the weird things about how I eat. And without making this post seem like an hour of aimless palaver about myself, here is the recipe for a pear and hazelnut bread pudding I made recently. It’s a simple and rustic recipe that can be prepared in no time. Most of the time spent is in its baking, so all you have to do is lazily sit back and wait for this sumptuous dessert to emerge from the oven.

Pear and Hazelnut Bread Pudding

Custard is probably one of the most comforting things about winter, and this bread pudding oozes comforts all over. From the smooth custard and the sweet vanilla soaked bread to the caramelised pears and the melted layers of Nutella, you will find yourself going for one heaped spoonful after another. The pudding is surprisingly light considering it contains custard and bread, and the sweetness is not overly cloying but never leaves you wanting. It’s the perfect after-dinner dessert to curl up on the couch to.

Pear and Hazelnut Bread Pudding

adapted from Fresh Living, June 2005
serves 4

Pear and Hazelnut Bread Pudding

butter for greasing
6 slices of oatbran & honey bread, crusts removed, halved diagonally
2 tbs Nutella
2 beurre bosc pears
2 eggs
2½ cups (625ml) milk
1 tbsp raw caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Grease a 20cm square ovenproof dish lightly with butter.
Spread one side of each slice of bread with Nutella.
Stand a pear on a chopping board. Holding the top of the pear with one hand, cut three 1cm thick slices either side of the core to make six slices. Discard the core. Repeat with the remaining pears.
Layer bread slices and pears alternately into dish.
Place eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla extract in a jug and whisk until well combined.
Pour over the bread and pears.
Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the bread to soak slightly.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the custard is set.
Set aside for 5 minutes. Serve warm.