Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Soup is On!

Alanna from A Veggie Venture dedicated the whole of February to Soup's On and invited all and sundry to join in and celebrate.

Since today is the last day of summer I thought I'd whip something to celebrate the season. Needless to say this isn't one of your more usual soups but it still gives you that inner satisfaction that a serving of soup seems to bring.


I've taken this wonderfully sweet and perfectly ripe cantaloupe and blended it with a little lime juice - served it with a fine dice of it's own flesh and a freshening hit of mint in the form of home-made mint ice cream.


Cantaloupe Soup

1 cantaloupe
fresh lime juice
mint ice-cream, to serve

Take a third of the cantaloupe and cut into a very fine dice. Toss in a little lime juice and place in the fridge to chill.

Take the remaining cantaloupe and cut into round chunks. Place in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Use a fine mesh to strain - discard the pulp. Add a little fresh lime juice to taste, then chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

When ready to plate - use a small round mould and portion out the dice between the plates, packing it down to form a tight cylinder.

Pour the chilled cantaloupe soup around the cantaloupe core then top with a scoop of ice cream.


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Monday, February 26, 2007

Spinach and Egg Pie

Jeanne from Cooksister is hosting this edition of Waiter There's something in my...and that something this time is PIE.

Taking a cue from the weather, I decided on making something I could take on a picnic that should please just about anyone.

Made with a simple shortcrust pastry it's filled with sautéed onions and spinach that have been flavoured with ground nutmeg and grated parmesan - whole eggs are then cracked onto this filling before being covered with it's pastry lid. As it cooks the the egg whites solidify around the filling, the yolks set and when you slice it, it will be a delight to the eye as well as a delight to eat.

spinach and egg pie©

Spinach and Egg Pie
[Makes 1 x 12x34cm [5x13 inch] rectangular pie]

1 large red onion, sliced finely
250 grams spinach leaves, washed and dried
3 eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper
ground nutmeg, to taste
grated parmesan, to taste
poppy seeds, to sprinkle

I have made this in a rectangular fluted pie tin - you can of course make it in whatever shape you desire.

I divided my dough into two pieces in a 2/3 - 1/3 split.
Take the larger portion and roll out to line the base of the tin - leave the overhang as we tidy that up at the end. Roll the smaller portion out to form the lid. Let this rest while you make the filling.

Heat a little oil in a pan and over a gentle heat, sauté the finely sliced onions until softened and just beginning to colour. Turn the heat down and let them slowly sweat so the natural caramels can develop. When they have reached that rich golden colour, add the spinach leaves and toss through to mix. Let them wilt and soften, then increase the heat to remove any excess water as we don't want a damp mixture. Season with salt and pepper then set aside to cool.

When cool, taste and season with ground nutmeg and a generous grating of parmesan. Spread the mixture out over your lined tin, don't press down the mixture as we want the eggwhites to be able to seep into the gaps, creating a layered look.

I've used 3 eggs for this recipe but they are jumbo sized Green eggs - if you have smaller eggs, you might need to add one or two more. The number needed is also dependant on the shape of the tin used - you will be the best judge of how many eggs will suit your pie.

Make shallow indentations in the filling where the yolk will be sitting - then crack the eggs, one by one, opening them directly over these indentations.

inside spinach and egg pie©

Using a milk wash, brush the edge of the dough before covering with the other piece of pastry - press to seal before cutting off the excess. Give another brush to the pastry top and sprinkle, if desired with poppy seeds. Also make a couple of slits in the top to allow the steam to escape, this will help lessen the chances of the pie coming apart at the seams.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and cooked through. If you feel the dough is browning too quickly, drop the temperature down to 160°C/325°F.

Let the pie cool a little in the tin before removing onto a wire rack.

spinach and egg pie©

You can serve this warm from the oven or wrap it up and serve it cold at a picnic.

slice of spinach and egg pie©

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Caremelised Oranges

Anna from Anna's Cool Finds is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging.

Of late I've had cravings for the humble orange and as I am in charge of all things that flow into the kitchen, this craving had to be satisfied.

oranges© by haalo

Friday, February 23, 2007

Baked Eggs

One of my must buys at the farmers' market are eggs - but not just ordinary eggs. They must be these...


barely fitting into their carton, these Jumbo eggs from Green Eggs are my first purchase of the day.


With some of these eggs I thought I'd do something a bit traditional - a neat idea for breakfast or lunch, Baked eggs.


Baked Eggs
[Serves 4]

150 grams silverbeet/swiss chard leaves, shredded roughly
1 large red onion, finely sliced
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons cream
salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat a little olive oil in a pan and add the onions. Sauté over a medium heat until softened and beginning to caramelise. Add the shredded silverbeet leaves and continue to cook until just wilted. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Divide the mixture into 4 oven-proof ramekins. Make a slight indentation into the centre of each. Crack the egg onto this mixture making sure you don't damage the yolk.


Spoon a tablespoon of cream over each ramekin and place in a baking tray that has been half filled with boiling water.


Place this into a preheated 160°C/320°F oven and cook for about 10 minutes - I love my eggs extremely runny, if you don't just cook it longer.

baked egg

I've served this with some slices of Ligurian olive bread.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cheese: Barossa Valley Cheese Company

We head back to South Australia and in particular the Barossa Valley for a new (to me at least) cheese-maker called Barossa Valley Cheese Company.

Just an hours drive north from Adelaide you'll find the Barossa Valley - an area that is most known for it's wonderful wines so it's not that surprising to find that it was a winemaker that turned cheese-maker.

While working the vintage in Bordeaux, Victoria Glaetzer found her focus moved to the artisan cheese of the area and when she returned to Australia five years ago she decided to start her own cheese-making business in partnership with her mother.

The milk, both cow and goat, is sourced from nearby dairies and they produce a small range of hand-made soft white mould, washed rind and fresh style cheese. I should note that Barossa Valley Cheese Company just won the Champion Washed Rind Cheese section in the 2007 Australian Grand Dairy Awards for their Washington Washrind.


Cheese: La Petite Princesse Camembert de Chèvres (Goat Camembert)
Location: Cheese Cellar - 67B Murray Street, Angaston, South Australia

I must admit in all honesty I did buy this cheese for it's label. It's cute, what can I say?

In the hand you can feel a bit of give in the cheese it isn't one of those firm rounds - with maturation you get the sense that it will be one of the wonderfully gooey types of camembert.


There's a lovely fresh aroma of grass and milk. It's white mould rind is speckled with a patina of age. I find the rind to be quite fragile and very thin - the rind isn't overpowering at all, just offering a richer and more intense flavour.


When I sliced this cheese it had only been out of the fridge for 15 minutes so it's not going to be excessively runny. Of course if you are serving it as part of a cheese platter you'll leave it out to let it reach room temperature - if you are suffering through summer naturally enough you wouldn't leave it out for such a long time.

The sweet and silky smooth core is wonderfully complimented by the rind and it's distinctively goat but does not have any of those bitter goat elements that can be found in some goat cheese. There's a mouth filling creaminess followed by an appealing tang to round out the experience.

I may well have bought it for the label but I'll buy it again for the taste.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Crème Brûlée

Jasmine from Confessions of a Cardamom Addict is the host of this month's Sugar High Friday and choose the rather fitting theme of sweet seduction.

For something that is a sure fire hit when it comes to seduction you can just forget about chocolate. You want something silky and creamy and slightly unctuous - something that won't weigh you down but leave you wanting more. Most of all you want something to share - a spoon for you and a spoon for your intended.

One the best dishes that fit these criteria is the venerable Crème Brûlée. This version couldn't be simpler and may have some crying out "sacrebleu" but it avoids the need for the water bath. It's a method prescribed by Stephanie Alexander and I personally cannot taste the difference. The only difference is in this method there is no stress and succeeds every time. Better still you can pretty much complete it the day before and just leave the torching of the top for when you are ready to serve. Considering we are in a mood to seduce, the less fuss and stressing, the better the evening.

Crème Brûlée© by haalo

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Apple Torte

The Chocolate Lady from In Mol Araan is our host for this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging.

This week I'll be using an ingredient that originates from right here in Australia - the ever popular Granny Smith.

granny smith apple© by haalo

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cheese: Holy Goat

I'm back with another Holy Goat cheese - this time it's a hard goat cheese called Skyla.


Cheese: Holy Goat Mature Skyla
Location: Sutton Grange Organic Farm, Victoria


Unwrapped you'll find a cheese almost devoid of any moisture and covered in a whitish rippled skin - this white mould skin will darken with age and intensify in flavour but it's perfectly edible so don't go cutting it off.


When sliced you can clearly see the darker ring surrounding the typical white goat cheese. There's a bite to this but no more than a good aged cheddar - it does tend to dissolve in the mouth and the skin is somewhat buttery for want of a better word. It slices easily without being brittle at all. It also shows good balance between saltiness and acidity - neither taking away from the purity of the milk.

Possible uses - served as in as part of a cheese platter, sliced thickly and baked into savoury tarts or as I did with this particular cheese, grated for the Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Muffins.

If you'd like to know more about Holy Goat or the other cheeses I've featured then just click on the appropriate link:
Mature Veloute
Ripe Pandora
Fromage Frais

Friday, February 16, 2007

Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Muffins

Time for another savoury muffin. Here I've used sweet potato and matched it to it's favourite herb, sage. I've then introduced a bit of sharpness in the form of a hard Goat cheese. This combination providing a great mix of sweet and sharp and floral all in one small package.


Sweet Potato and Goat Cheese Muffins
[Makes 6 large muffins]

1 large red onion, sliced
1 thick rasher bacon, sliced into batons (optional)
4 sage leaves, shredded
150 grams sweet potato, peeled and shredded
50 grams hard Goat cheese, shredded (I used Holy Goat Mature Skyla)
300 grams plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
1 egg
3 teaspoons olive oil

Using a fry-pan, sauté the onion, bacon and shredded sage leaves in a little oil until the onion has softened and the bacon has browned. Add the shredded sweet potato along with a good grinding of black pepper and toss through for about 30 seconds - remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Sift the plain flour with the baking powder and place into a large bowl. Add the cooked mixture and stir through, breaking up any lumps that may form. Sprinkle over the shredded goat cheese and mix it through so it's evenly distributed.

Whisk the egg with the milk, then add the oil before pouring this into the dry ingredients. Stir through until just combined - be careful not to overmix.

Spoon into your large muffin moulds and bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven until golden brown and cook through - this should take around 20-30 minutes.

Let the muffins cool slightly on a wire rack before eating.


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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tea - Larsen and Thompson

Jasmine Pearls

This isn't your usual looking tea - these are Jasmine Pearls, a type of Chinese Flower Tea. These are by local tea merchant Larsen & Thompson.

They are basically green tea that has been allowed to dry next to jasmine, thus absorbing it's aroma. The leaves are then rolled to forms these pearls.

To brew, you'll need to use 6 per cup but you will be able to keep topping up the water. The water should be just below boiling point and if you use a see-through glass you'll be treated to the sight of the pearls opening.


The flavour is more pure in comparison to the more usual jasmine tea - a wonderful honeysuckle scent wafts from the glass. It's very refreshing and visually quite appealing.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chocolate and Orange

It's been a while since I've made some cookies and I decided to experiment a little. I quite like the combination of chocolate and orange but rather than use the usual chocolate buds and orange zest I thought I'd try different forms of these flavours - namely Roasted Cocoa Nibs and Glacé Orange Slices.


Cocoa Nibs and Glacé Orange Cookies
[Makes 40]

125 grams softened butter
200 grams caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
200 grams self-raising flour, sifted (or use 200 grams plain flour mixed with 1 teaspoon baking powder)
40 grams roasted cocoa nibs
40 grams glacé orange slices, finely diced

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F.

Place the butter and sugar into a bowl and beat until creamy and the sugar is incorporated.
Add the egg and vanilla bean paste and beat until combined.

Toss a spoonful of flour into the diced glacé orange and mix through - this helps separate the small dice and will stop it from clumping.

Stir the rest of the flour gently through the mixture using a spoon and then add the cocoa nibs and glacé orange - stir until just mixed through.

Use a small ice-cream scoop to form the cookies - leave space around each for spreading.

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden.

Let them sit on the tray for a minute before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.


This is one experiment that I can say was a complete success. The nibs give you that chocolate flavour but without unnecessary sweetness, it's a more adult taste and the orange perfumes the whole cookie.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Mixology Monday XII

The theme of this month's Mixology Monday, hosted by Jimmy's Cocktail Hour, is whisk(e)y.

With the temperature rising again, it's appropriate to seek some relief in a cooling beverage.

A blend of Canadian Club and Grand Marnier, apple and lime juice this cocktail provides a most refreshing respite from the heat.


Canadian Summer
[Makes 2]

45ml Canadian Club
45ml Grand Marnier
juice of 1 lime
200ml apple juice

Place ice in a shaker and add all the ingredients - shake well, then strain, into ice filled tumblers.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Seared Scallops with Creamed Corn

Weekend Herb Blogging is back home with Kalyn this week.

After that earth shattering post last week that revealed bananas secret identity I decided to play it safe and got myself some cobs of sweet corn at the market.

corn© by haalo

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Oysters Kilpatrick

For this month's Retro Recipe Challenge, Laura Rebecca has us cooking for love.

There really was only one recipe I could possibly do - one that uses an ingredient synonymous with love and the stirring of those romantic intentions, the Oyster. And there is no more a retro recipe than that 1970's classic Oysters Kilpatrick.

Personally, I would always serve oysters "au naturel" - freshly shucked, sea water still in it's shell. Serving Oysters Kilpatrick wouldn't be met with feelings of love, more like a flood of tears over my act of desecration.

In order to commit this travesty I've selected a recipe that comes from a legend in Australian cooking, Margaret Fulton and her classic 1968 tome The Margaret Fulton Cookbook.

I did make a change to the method - instead of placing raw bacon on the oysters and then grilling them until the bacon cooked, I've sautéed the bacon first until crispy and then only popped them under the grill to just add a little heat to the shell. The recipe I've included below is of the original method.

Oysters Kilpatrick© by haalo

Friday, February 09, 2007

Polenta and Mixed Seed Bread

Time to do a Delia - this recipe is from Delia Smith's How to Cook Book One. A book that according to accounts, lifted egg consumption in England by 10%!

I generally trust Delia - there's something solid and reliable about her recipes and techniques and if you're a novice in the kitchen you really couldn't go past her How to Cook series. Now, I only wish she wouldn't put crème fraîche in everything - even risotto!

This is a really quick bread to make, full of seeds and oats and surprisingly, polenta. The end result is a flavoursome bread with a moorish crunchy crust. I've made some minor changes to the recipe but it's available at Delia Online in it's original form.


Polenta and Mixed Seed Bread
[Makes 1 loaf]

150 grams fine Polenta (cornmeal)
175 grams Spelt Flour (or strong white bread flour)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
25 grams pumpkin seeds
25 grams poppy seeds
25 grams rolled oats
25 grams rolled rice
1 teaspoon raw sugar
1 large egg
275ml buttermilk
poppy seeds, extra for topping

Sift the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda together into a bowl. Add in the polenta, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, rolled oats, rolled rice and raw sugar. Stir this well.

In a small bowl add the egg and buttermilk, whisk lightly to combine and then add this to the dry ingredients, stirring until the mixture has absorbed the liquids - it will look like a cake batter.

Pour this into a lightly oiled bread tin and sprinkle with extra poppy seeds - Delia uses a 450 gram tin and that will give you a small but high loaf. I used a long (30cm/12 inch) bread tin for this recipe - you will need to make adjustments to cooking time if using a small tin.

Bake in a pre-heated 180°C/350°F oven for 40 minutes - or until the bread has browned and is cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Remove from the oven and turn out of the tin. Place it upside down onto a rack and return to the oven to crisp up the underside. This will take roughly 5-10 minutes.

Once done - let it cool on a wire rack.


It's a loaf of many textures - a mix of crunchy crust and a moist interior, thanks to the polenta - which also gives it a lovely golden tinge.


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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

No Recipe Here

Pardon my indulgence - but Outdoor Photographer magazine accepted my photo of Manarola Sunset for inclusion in their web gallery of Favourite Places!

link here

I love this photo so much it's even the desktop background on the Mac and it's a constant reminder of a perfect day that ended with the perfect sunset.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #30

This edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday, hosted by Tim at Winecast has settled upon the theme of New World Shiraz.

Living in a country full of well known "new world" Shiraz meant another excuse to raid the cellar and blow the dust off some bottles.

I thought it might be interesting to open up one of the older bottles and see how the Shiraz has fared.

The choice - a Majella 1996 Shiraz from the Coonawarra region of South Australia an area famed for it's "terra rossa" soils.


The wine was fermented in small oak barrels and then aged for 2 years in French and American Oak hogsheads.


Even after 11 years the first thing that hits you is the fruit, as ripe and rich as the day it was bottled. There's that intense dense colour that you come to expect in our Shiraz. To drink there is wonderful balance, fruit and spice with a touch of white pepper melded with time. The finish, long and lingering, something that does seem to go missing with time. It leaves you sated and satisfied and happy that there's a few more bottles waiting for in the cellar.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Features

This will probably only appeal to people living in Melbourne and Victoria but I've added some extra features to the Farmers' Market listings.

I've created a separate blog that lists the markets with their opening hours and location and where possible their websites and it's found here.

There's also a companion Google Calendar which you can add by clicking this button

You'll find it's valid for the next year with all the markets added, along with their location, opening hours and frequency. This button is also located at the end on the weekly market listings on this page.

I hope you'll find it useful in planning those market visits.

World Nutella Day

Sara from Ms. Adventures in Italy and Shelly from At Home in Rome have declared February 6th World Nutella Day to honour the great Italian chocolate hazelnut spread.

So to celebrate, why not toast the day with a Nutella cocktail?


Nutella Cocktail
[makes 2]

1 cup ice
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons Nutella
30-mls Frangelico
30-mls Baileys
30-mls Vanilla Vodka

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until thick and creamy.

Pour into glasses and enjoy at once!

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Espresso Granita

For this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge, Sara has decided to put a twist on the theme that started WCC and asked us to do something from our newest acquisition.

After searching through the pile of new cookbooks and the like, I settled upon one that I've yet to use - Gennaro Contaldo's Italian Year. My neglect of this book was due to the other cookbook purchased at the same time - Locatelli's masterful tome Made in Italy. So it was time to make amends.

With the hot weather returning, I sort solace in my other new acquisition of the mechanical type - some my say I have an unnatural attachment to the gelateria - to create a wonderfully refreshing and quintessentially Italian, Granita al Caffé or Espresso Granita.

Espresso Granita© by haalo

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Rum Bananas

Weekend Herb Blogging travels to Germany where Ulrike from Küchenlatein is our host. This week I've decided to go a little bananas.

A day of hot weather has turned my pristine skinned but under-ripe bunch into this...

bananas© by haalo

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Cheese: Udder Delights

I've returned to the utterly delightful Udder Delights for a cheese I know will appeal to fellow blogger Anna. It's the Udder Delights Chévre.


This is a fresh goat cheese - presented as a log. There's also an ashed and a herbed version available. It's pressed but still has a softness to it - your fingerprints will definitely show in this.


I seem to repeat myself when it comes to goat cheese - but what does strike you is the whiteness of the curd. The outside is slightly moist - you could probably compare it's feel to say a buffalo mozzarella.


It is sliceable though it will crumble somewhat as you can see but it's also very easy to spread. These qualities do make it more useful in the kitchen as it opens up the range of applications. As slices you could add it to tarts and the like, or serve it as is on a cheese board or treat it like a fromage frais.

Tastewise, it's a little more "goaty", slightly sharper in taste, though still extremely creamy in the mouth with an appealing tang.

If you'd like to know more about Udder Delights head over to this post.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Salmon and Caviar

When presented with such a beautiful piece of sashimi grade salmon it would be wrong to cook it.


As I do have a fondness for raw fish and could very easily eat this as is - that really wouldn't be worthy of a post. So I decided to play around a little and present a very easy to make starter that should win the hearts of your guests.

To add a little extra bit of decadence I've also incorporated the lustrous pearls of (local) Yarra Valley Salmon Caviar - a dish you might like to consider with Valentine's Day on the horizon.


Salmon and Caviar Timbale
[Serves 2 as a starter]

200 grams sushi-grade Salmon
½ avocado, peeled and diced
¼ - ½ teaspoon wasabi powder (to taste)
½ teaspoon Yuzu juice (to taste)
Salmon Caviar

Place the avocado into a bowl and mash using the back of a fork. Add the ¼ teaspoon wasabi powder and ¼ teaspoon yuzu juice and mix until well combined. Taste and adjust adding more wasabi powder and yuzu juice to suit your palette. Don't go over board and make it too hot or you won't enjoy the salmon. You want to be able to taste the three distinct elements - it needs to be in balance.

Next, finely dice the salmon. Do this only when you are ready to serve the dish.

Place a ring mould onto the centre of each place and half fill each mould - pressing down to compress the salmon. Top with a spoonful of the avocado puree - then top with the remaining salmon. Use the back of a spoon to press down again. Keep the spoon against the centre of each timbale as you ease the mould upwards - revealing an intact timbale.

Spoon a little more of the avocado over the top of each and then a generous mounding of salmon caviar.


Serve at once with a glass (or two) of Champagne.


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Ginger and Lemon Barley Water

Rosie from What's the recipe today Jim? is the host of this months Jihva from Ingredients and has chosen Ginger as the theme.


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