Saturday, June 30, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #89

The year certainly is moving quickly as we head into the 89th edition of Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Kalyn herself. This week I turn to a staple in the kitchen, the onion.

Red onions

I'm sure there's some inaccuracy in the naming of these particular onions - here they are sold as either Spanish Onions or Red Onions, regardless of their true identity they are a milder and somewhat sweeter variety compared to the regular brown onion.

Nutritionally onions are quite a valuable part of our diet as they contain anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol and antioxidant properties. You'll find Vitamins B6, C, E, and K, Folate, Niacin, Riboflavin and Thiamine along with Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc.

This weeks recipe is a means to an end. There's a dish I've been meaning to make from Jane Lawson's Cocina Nueva but before I can, I need to make this component of Caramelised Spanish Onions.

caramelised onions

Caramelised Spanish Onions

125mls/½ cup olive oil
4 large red onions, finely sliced
125mls/½ cup Manzanilla Sherry
2 tablespoons Sherry Vinegar
3 teaspoons sugar

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan over a medium low heat - add the onions, along with a pinch of salt and stir well. Cook for about 40 minutes. It's important that this is done slowly - by the end of the cooking time the onions will have softened and only just started to colour. They would have also started releasing their juices.

Add the Manzanilla Sherry (this is a dry sherry - you could substitute Fino Sherry), Sherry Vinegar and sugar - stir to dissolve the sugar and continue cooking for at least another 1½ hours. Stir occasionally to ensure the mixture doesn't stick or cook too quickly.

By the end of the cooking time, most of the liquid should have evaporated and the onions should be deeply coloured. Let it cool before using.


The taste of these caramelised onions are quite different to those I've had in the past. The onions have absorbed the flavour of the sherry and the sherry vinegar gives it an added piquancy that cuts through the natural sweetness. Now, there will be quite a bit of oil left behind but don't throw it out - you can use this to add an extra dimension to say, salad dressings.

If you look here you'll find how I used these onions but it looks a little like this


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Friday, June 29, 2007

Pork Dumplings

Johanna, The Passionate Cook herself, is the host of this edition of Waiter, There's something in my...and decided on dumplings as the theme.

There were certain rules to this event - the dumplings needed to be wrapped in dough and either boiled, steamed, baked but not fried.

So for my pastry I decided to cut a corner and use the ever useful, wonton wrapper. These small squares of fresh pastry certainly make life easy.

wonton wrappers© by haalo

I've opted to steam my dumplings and have given them a Chinese feel with a blend of pork, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, spring onions, cabbage and water chestnuts for added crunch.

steamed pork dumplings© by haalo

Pork Dumplings

120 grams pork shoulder (or pork mince)
120 grams cabbage, roughly shredded
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
dash sesame oil
freshly ground white pepper
handful water chestnuts, roughly chopped
1 egg
20 wonton wrappers

To save a bit of time I made the filling using a small food processor.

Cut the pork into cubes and process until finely chopped but still retaining some texture. Remove and place into a bowl.

Add the spring onions and pulse until finely chopped - tip this in with the pork.

Add the cabbage and pulse until finely chopped. Add the pork and spring onions back to the bowl and pulse briefly to mix the ingredients. Now tip this all back into your bowl.

Add the hoisin sauce, sesame oil (be careful with the sesame oil as it's very strong you only need to add a few drops) and pepper and stir well.

Add the water chestnuts (I left these in larger pieces as I wanted them to provide the contrasting crunch) - stir again. At this stage to check that the seasoning is correct I like to cook up just a teaspoon or two of the mix - just cook a little in a frypan just until the pork is cooked through. Taste and make any adjustments as necessary.

Lightly beat an egg and add to the mixture. Stir it through and the filling is complete.

To make the dumplings:

Place the wrapper flat on a board and and lightly moisten the edge with water - place a spoonful of filling in the centre and bring the corners together - as you do that, gently squeeze the filling upwards to create an purse like shape, allow the corners to fold as they will. There should be an opening in the top. The best part of this type of shape is that no two will look the same.

dumplings© by haalo

To steam:

I used a bamboo steamer - be careful not to overcrowd the steamer as you don't want the dumplings sticking together. Steam over a pot of boiling water until cooked through. These took between 5-10 minutes.

steamed pork dumplings© by haalo

These are best served hot from the steamer.

Because I couldn't help myself I also made a few that have been fried boiled in oil. Using the same filling and wrappers I just shaped these like Tortellini.

fried pork dumplings© by haalo

Depending on whether you feel good or bad, the choice is there!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #18

For this edition of Presto Pasta Night hosted by Ruth from Once Upon a Feast I've opted for something that's more on the presto side.


These are Filini-Vermicelli and one of the things I love most about them is that they cook in 3 minutes. When you think about it, with just chicken stock and these noodles, you could have chicken noodle soup done in a flash. Why would you even bother with those cup-a-soup varieties?

For this weeks offering I have produced a more substantial soup which is just perfect for our rather cold weather at the moment. I've kept the flavours fairly clean and used leek, celery, radish and cannellini beans to accompany the pasta along with chicken thigh meat.

From start to finish you could probably make this soup in under 15 minutes.


Chicken Vermicelli Soup
[Serves 2]

2 skinless chicken thighs, sliced finely
1 leek, halved and sliced finely
2 radish, cut into small matchsticks
3 stalks celery, sliced finely (choose the inner light green stalks of the celery heart - use less if they are the darker outside stalks)
reserved leaves from celery stalkes, finely chopped
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 handfuls Filini-Vermicelli pasta
chicken stock

Heat a little oil and a knob of butter in a saucepan and when the butter has melted add the sliced leek. Let this gently soften for a minute before adding the celery and radish. Stir often to ensure it doesn't brown and that the vegetables are cooking evenly.

After another 2 minutes add the chicken. When the chicken has changed colour add the stock and let this simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the drained beans and when they have heated through add the pasta. Stir this well and let this cook for 2 minutes.

Add the reserved celery leaves and the put the lid on the pan and turn off the heat.

The heat will continue to cook the pasta - you may notice that it will start absorbing the stock, if it looks too thick just add some more hot chicken stock and bring it back to simmering point.

Before serving, taste and adjust the seasoning. If you like sprinkle over with freshly grated Parmesan.

Just to show the versatility of Vermicelli do have a look at the wonderful tart Myriam made!

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Cheese: Shaw River

Shaw River is Australia's only Water Buffalo Dairy and it's located in western Victoria, near the town of Yambuk. The herd is made up from both Italian Riverine Buffalo and Bulgarian Murrah Buffalo.

They are probably more well known for their mozzarella and yoghurt but this cheese is a bit on the unusual side.

shaw river

Cheese Maker - Shaw River Buffalo Cheese
Cheese Type - Lady Julia Cheddered Buffalo Cheese
Location - Princes Highway , Yambuk


This cheese is a bit hard to come by as it takes about 2 years to make - it's a cheddar made with buffalo milk. It carries the characteristic of buffalo milk in it's whiter colouring.


Though it feels quite dense, it cuts very smoothly without crumbling. It's taste is quite pronounced and packs a punch like a great aged cheddar should. The sweetness of the milk comes through along with that lovely nuttiness. It may look meek and mild but this is for those that love their cheddar to bite back.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sugar High Friday #32

For this month's Sugar High Friday our host is none other than The Domestic Goddess herself, Jennifer and she asked us to make our most craved dessert.

How can you actually boil it down to one thing? There's so many options, many of which I've posted about before - Italian classics like Crostoli, Panna cotta and Zabaglione, the toffee-crusted delight that is Crème Brûlée and the simply comforting fruit crumbles.

After much thought I decided to make something that was quick and easy and is capable of satisfying any craving at any time. With only three ingredients and taking less than 10 minutes you too can answer that sugar call with a warming stack of pikelets.



1 cup self-raising flour
1 egg
1 cup milk

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the egg and milk and whisk until combined. Let it sit for 5 minutes before cooking.

Heat up a heavy-based skillet (cast iron is great for this) and when hot, brush with a little butter - pour in about a ¼ cup of batter into the centre of the pan. Let it cook, undisturbed - you should notice bubbles appearing on the surface and when it looks to be drying out, flip the pikelet over to finish cooking.

Turn out onto a plate and repeat the process with the remaining mixture.

When they are all cooked serve at once.


Enjoy them with lashing of butter or just plain with jam.

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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #88

Astrid from Paulchen's Food Blog is our host for this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and once again I find myself with another in-season ingredient, fresh from the farmers' market - my favourite nut, Hazelnut.

roasted hazelnuts

These are roasted hazelnuts from Erica which is a small town in Gippsland, 165 kilometres (100 miles) east of Melbourne.

Nutritionally, Hazelnuts contain Vitamins A, B6, C, E and K - Vitamin E helps stop oxidation of polyunsaturated fats. You'll also find Betaine, Choline, Folate, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin and Thiamine along with Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium and Zinc.

One interesting thing I read was that Australia imports more than 2000 tonnes of hazelnuts a year to meet the demand by Cadbury for their hazelnut chocolate blocks. I should consider myself lucky to have garnered these local ones!

The recipe I'm making today comes from a magazine I was reading while at the hairdresser - I managed to hurriedly scribble down the recipe but I'm not sure which magazine it came from. The original recipe is for walnuts so I have made a couple of minor changes since I'm using hazelnuts. Now, if you are on a diet, you may want to look away - I can't be held responsible ;)


Hazelnut Doughnuts with Chocolate Sauce

250 grams self-raising flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons caster sugar
50 grams roasted hazelnuts, crushed
50 grams melted butter
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons milk, approximate
extra caster sugar, for rolling

Chocolate Sauce
200mls cream
50mls milk
200 grams dark chocolate, roughly chopped.
50 grams cocoa

Make Chocolate Sauce:
Place the cream and milk in a small saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Remove from heat and add the dark chocolate and cocoa and whisk until the chocolate has melted and the mixture has combined. Pour into a bowl and serve with hot doughnuts.

Make the doughnuts:
Sift the flour, baking powder and sugar into a bowl. Add the crushed hazelnuts and stir to ensure it's well mixed and the nuts are evenly distributed.

Stir the vanilla extract through the melted butter and add to the dry ingredients. Keep stirring and adding the milk, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture starts to come together. As all flours are different you may find you'll need to use more or less milk then listed.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead until it's glossy but no longer sticky. Roll out to about ½cm/0.2 inch thickness.


Use a cutter to stamp out into your desired shape. The photo above only shows about a third of the dough rolled out.

You can cook this in batches - store, covered in the fridge and make sure the dough comes back to room temperature before using it.

Cook the doughnuts:

Use a neutral oil to deep fry the doughnuts - I used canola. It's really important to make sure you fry at the correct temperature - too high and they will burn and not cook all the way through, too low and they will soak up the oil. I found that at around 150°C/300°F you'll get a good result. They will puff up as they cook, make sure you turn them in the oil so they are evenly browned and then drain them well on baking paper before tossing them through the caster sugar.


Serve them straight away with the warm chocolate sauce - just dunk and enjoy!

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #17

For this edition of Presto Pasta Night, hosted by Ruth from Once Upon a Feast, I've decided to make gnocchi.

These aren't the traditional potato ones that I've made in the past, these are "Roman Gnocchi" - a speciality of Rome and Lazio. They are made using milk, semolina and egg. This mixture is almost polenta like and once cooked it's spread out onto a tray and left to cool and harden. Circles are then stamped out (a small espresso glass is the usual tool for doing this) and they are then arranged to slightly overlap on a buttered tray.

Parmigiano is sprinkled over along with dots of butter and it's baked until well browned. The finished result are crisp coated discs with soft spongy centres.


Gnocchi Alla Romana

3 cups milk
160 grams fine semolina
1 egg, lightly beaten
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
grated Provolone

Place the milk into a saucepan and bring it to boiling point - sprinkle over the semolina, stirring all the time. Add a pinch of salt and continue to stir until it thickens and starts to come away from the sides of the pot.

Remove from the heat and continue to stir vigourously - so to take some of the heat from the mixture. Add the beaten egg and keep stirring - the mixture will tend to separate but keep beating and it will come back together to form a sticky paste.

Pour this out into a baking paper lined tray - smooth the surface with a palette knife. Let this set until cold - you can put this in the fridge overnight.


Once cold, lift the mixture from the tray using the baking paper and place on a board - use a circle cutter to cut out discs.

Butter a baking dish well and arrange the discs, overlapping slightly to form rows. There's no need to throw away the off-cuts, these can be placed at the bottom of the baking dish and the discs arranged on top.

Sprinkle generously with a mix of Parmigiano and Provolone and dots of softened butter.

Bake in a preheated 200°C/400°F oven until heated through and the cheese has melted and browned.


You can serve them on their own or you could offer them as a side dish to a main meal.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Tea - Larsen and Thompson

I'm back with another "flower tea" called Spring Snow - by local tea merchants Larsen and Thompson.

spring snow

It's a different shape to those I've featured in the past - it's made to resemble a monk's hat.

As with all flower teas, the addition of water reveals it's inner beauty


Inside the parcel of green tea are three white Chrysanthemums. The resulting tea has a definite hint of mint in it's flavour and a golden-yellow colour.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Lemon Polenta Cookies

cookie gun

It's been quite a while since I last used my cookie press so when I saw this recipe for Polenta cookies in Bake It I thought they might be the perfect excuse to bring it out of the cupboard.

The polenta in these cookies puts them on the crunchy side rather than the soft and chewy but they do make a good companion for tea or coffee.

cookie stack

Lemon Polenta Cookies

125 grams softened butter, cut into small dice
80 grams caster sugar
finely grated zest from 1 lemon (I used some of the candied Buddha's fingers)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
165 grams plain flour, sifted
80 grams polenta

Place the butter, sugar and lemon zest in a food processor and process until light and creamy. Add the eggs and process until smooth. Add the flour and polenta and pulse until it forms a sticky dough.

If you don't have a cookie press you can use a piping bag fitted with a 2cm/¾ inch star nozzle to form the cookies.

Bake in a 180°C/350°F oven for about 10-15 minutes (depending on the size of the cookie) until golden. Cool on the trays for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

cookie bowl

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Mixology Monday XVI

Anna from Morsels and Musings selected a theme of Crème de la Crème for this edition of Mixology Monday

The rather chilly weather we're currently experiencing had me searching for a cocktail to suit the season and none seemed as perfect as this one, appropriately called White Winter. With a mix of Drambuie Cream, Vodka and Kahlua it will definitely warm you from the inside out.


White Winter
[Makes 1 - sourced from Michael Caines]

30ml Vodka
30ml Kahlua
60ml Drambuie Cream

Place the ice, Vodka, Kahlua and Drambuie Cream into a shaker and shake vigourously. Pour into a martini glass.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Candied Buddha's Fingers

Rachel from Rachel's Bite is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and I've opted for something a little unusual.

buddhas's hand© by haalo

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Cheese: Grandvewe Cheese

I do get quite excited when I find a new cheese to taste and I must say I am extremely impressed with this offering from Tasmania.

Grandvewe Cheese is located in the picturesque Huon Valley overlooking Entrecasteaux Channel and Bruny Island and was established in 2001. They are a family run business that specialise in Sheep's milk cheese sourced from their herd of East Friesland (Friesian) Sheep. They are also organically certified and have a range of Organic Wines to complement their cheese.

birchs bay blonde

Cheese Maker: Grandvewe Cheese
Cheese Type: Birchs Bay Blonde
Location: 59 Devlyns Road, Birchs Bay Tasmania
September - June: 10am-5pm, 7 days excluding Christmas day
July - August: 10am-4pm daily except Tuesdays


Before you even remove it from it's wrapper those wonderful mushroom aromas are coming through - this is the type of cheese I just love to breath in deeply.

The shape is classical - barrel shaped with a wrinkled rind that you might recall seeing in some of the mature goat cheese I've featured in the past.


I have, contrary to my own advice, sliced this before it's achieved room temperature - but you should see the different layers. Just under the fairly thin skin is a creamy and as it warms, runny section that surrounds a whiter and more chalky core.


To eat, it's soft on the palette, the flavour filling your mouth - there's no bitterness or tartness at all. It's just well balanced and absolutely moorish.

At this stage, the rind is perfectly edible (it's slightly moist) though as the cheese matures the rind will become harder. The true testament to the cheese is that on a cheese board with three others, it was the first to disappear.

Unlike so many other cheese makers, Grandvewe has set up a really great website where you can find out more about the sheep, their cheese and wine and you can even order it online! I do believe they even ship overseas.

For those in Melbourne, I found this at Leo's in Kew.

Web: Grandvewe

Friday, June 15, 2007

Presto Pasta Night #16

Each week it seems, Presto Pasta Night keeps getting bigger and better as more people share their love of pasta - remember to head over to Ruth's site for the delicious roundup!

Today I'll be using spaghetti with a bit of difference - it comes all the way from Calabria and it's made using a Chitarra - if you want to see what one looks like then click on this link.


Presented in these attractive bundles, the "spaghetti alla chitarra" has a noticeable difference. The spaghetti are square rather than round and have a rougher surface.

Pasta that has this type of rough surface is actually a good thing as the sauce clings to those little edges, rather than just drip off the typical smooth surfaced mass-produced pasta. You can now say it wasn't your fault the sauce dripped all over your shirt, it's the pasta's fault!

You should be able to make out the roughness I was talking about in this photo:


Needless to say this would make an ideal pasta to have with the traditional Ragù however, since we don't always have 2-3 hours to spend in making the sauce there is a way to get that feel and it involves a few of these


Good Italian sausages - these are made in a style of the Veneto Salsiccia - they are a lightly spiced, pure pork sausage. They are also available flavoured with fennel seed (con Finocchio) which you could also use for this dish.

The idea of the salsiccia sauce is very traditional and the way we make it, it ends up a cross between a chunky meat sauce and meatballs.


Spaghetti con Salsiccia/Spaghetti with Sausage

Spaghetti alla Chitarra
4 Veneto Salsiccia or good quality Pork Sausage
1 red onion, peeled, diced finely
2 medium carrots, peeled, diced finely
1 stalk celery, leaves included, diced finely
rosemary, finely chopped
tomato paste
diced fresh tomatoes or canned Italian crushed tomatoes
finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve

Just take the quantities listed as a guide only.

You can cut the vegetables by hand but you can also put them all in the food processor and process until they are finely diced.

Heat olive oil and a small knob of butter in a large pan and when the butter has melted and the mix is sizzling add the vegetables including the rosemary. Sauté this until golden over a medium-low heat. Stir often to prevent the mixture from burning.

It's important that you not rush this as so much of the flavour depends on the slow caramelisation of the vegetables. Aim for this to take somewhere between 10-15 minutes.

While the vegetables are cooking prepare the sausages.

You need to break the sausage meat into small pieces (the sausage skin is discarded). I do this using the back of knife - it makes indentations through the meat but doesn't break the skin and it makes it easy for the meat to be pushed out from the end of the sausage.

When the vegetables are ready, increase the heat slightly and add the sausage in stages. Once they have changed colour, add some more sausage pieces. It's done this way so not to lose too much heat from your pan. Once all the sausage is added, continue cooking, stirring often for another 5 minutes.

Add a tablespoon of tomato paste, mix this in well and cook it off for a couple of minutes. This will also help intensify the flavour and give you a better end result.

Finally add in diced fresh tomatoes or a can of crushed Italian tomatoes, stir this through and then let the whole thing bubble away and reduce for at least 15 minutes.

At this stage you could probably put the water on to boil the pasta.

If you find the sauce is getting too thick just add a little of the pasta water to thin it out.

When the pasta is ready, toss it through the sauce and serve with a grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rhubarb and Apple Crumble

This is another recipe that incorporates stewed Rhubarb and as we are well and truly in the middle of rhubarb season, it's a product there's no shortage of.

You could make this purely with stewed rhubarb, but as I only had a smaller amount I've bulked it up with simple stewed apples. I've modified the crumble slightly and added flaked almonds.


Rhubarb and Apple Crumble

6 Granny smith apples
lemon juice
caster sugar
Stewed Rhubarb
150 grams self raising flour
150 grams soft brown sugar
150 grams melted butter
50 grams shredded coconut
50 grams flaked almonds
100 grams rolled oats

Prepare the apples:
Peel, core and quarter the apples, then cut into chunks. Place in a pan with a little lemon juice and caster sugar and cook over a medium heat until the apples have softened.

Place the cooked apples in the base of a baking dish then top with stewed rhubarb.


Make the crumble:
Place the flour, sugar, coconut and rolled oats into a bowl - stir this well to ensure it's mixed through. Pour in the melted butter and continue stirring until almost combined. Add the flaked almonds and gently fold through the mix so not to break them up too much.

Take handfuls of the crumble and sprinkle evenly over the top of the fruit.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven until golden brown and crunchy - about 35 minutes.

Let it cool for 5 minutes before serving with thick cream.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chocolate - San Churro


I've been patiently waiting since Christmas to try the hot chocolate from Chocolateria San Churro and finally it's cold enough to do so.

Chocolateria San Churro opened up last year in Fitzroy and it's a most sinful place to visit - the freshly made churros with your choice of molten dark, milk or white is a MUST HAVE. The most decadent item on their menu is the Tres Chocolates (it's a triple shot of chocolate - 3 espresso glasses filled with white, milk and dark chocolate!) - even Paalo was unable to finish that dish. If you do order it you need to drink it quickly - as it cools it turns back into solid chocolate!

Besides being able to gorge on all things chocolate they also have a range of products that you can take home - one of which is the focus of this post.

chilli and cinnamon

This is AZTECA - it's drinking chocolate flavoured with chilli and cinnamon.

It's simple to make, heat up the appropriate amount of milk, whisk in the required amount of chocolate and then keep stirring until the whole thing thickens.


The chilli is definitely a flavour that comes through - subtle at first it then builds to give you that typical "warm" feeling to your lips and tongue. It's not overpowering though, so you won't be breaking out in tears with this one and for an extra chilly day, it's a perfect choice.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #17

Ani at Foodichickie is this month's host of Weekend Cookbook Challenge and selected cornmeal as the theme.

Here in Australia cornmeal goes by the name of polenta and there are various grinds that can be found along with the instant varieties that are used to make the dish called polenta.

In the past I've made a couple of breads and a cake using polenta and thought I should even that up with another cake.

I do love poundcake so when I saw a recipe for Polenta Poundcake in a book called Bake It, I knew I had to do just that and bake it!

Polenta Poundcake

150 grams softened butter, cut into small cubes
230 grams soft brown sugar
115 grams caster sugar
5 eggs, room temperature
200mls crème fraîche (or sour cream)
¾ teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract
155 grams plain flour, sifted
1½ teaspoons baking powder
150 grams fine polenta/cornmeal

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F - butter and line a long loaf pan.

Place the butter, brown sugar and caster sugar into the bowl of a mixer and beat until pale and creamy.

Add the eggs, one a time, making sure each is well incorporated before adding the next.

On a low speed add the crème fraîche, almond essence and vanilla extract - mix until just combined.

Sift the flour, baking powder and cornmeal together and then add to the mixing bowl. Fold in by hand. When combined pour the mixture into your prepared pan.

Bake for about 50 minutes or until cooked through. If you feel it's browning too quickly, lower the temperature and cover the top of the cake with baking paper lined foil.

When cooked, let it cool in the tin for 5 minutes before placing it on a wire rack.


The book suggests serving it with a blackberry comport and cream and obviously, I complied. I just used frozen blackberries and sweated them down with a little lemon juice and caster sugar. They are served at room temperature along with a nice dollop of Meander Valley Double Cream.

The cake itself has a wonderful crunchy crust and is a deep golden brown inside - it looks and feels moist but it's highly absorbent and just soaks in the blackberry juice without falling apart. This will certainly be something I will cook more than once!

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #86

Ulrike from Küchenlatein is this weeks host of Weekend Herb Blogging and I thought I might take a look at a rather "distinctive" looking vegetable...


Celeriac (also known as Celery Root, Knob Celery and Turnip-rooted Celery) is a root vegetable and a member of the celery family. It's recognisable by its knobbly bulbous base that is usually crowned by deep green celery-type stalks.

celeriac ©

Nutritionally, Celeriac contains Vitamins C and B6, Folate, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid and Riboflavin along with Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium and Zinc. It's also high in dietary fibre.

Its appearance probably puts it in the "too hard" basket and accounts for its less than popular status. It's a shame though as the minor effort needed to prepare celeriac is more than adequately compensated by it's taste.

celeriac half ©

To prepare the celeriac, make sure you have a bowl of acidulated water to stop the cut celeriac from turning brown - then just cut away the hard outer skin, I find a vegetable knife is the best tool for this.

When it comes to recipes for celeriac it's fairly hard to go past the classic Celeriac Remoulade, which is basically grated or matchstick-sized slivers of raw Celeriac tossed in a grainy mustard mayonnaise. However, since the weather is a touch on the cool side I decided to make a silky smooth Celeriac Soup instead!

celeriac soup ©

Celeriac Soup
[Serves 2]

1 celeriac, cleaned and cut into small dice
1 small leek, quartered and diced
fresh chicken stock
salt and freshly ground white pepper
milk or cream

Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan over a low heat - add the diced leek and gently let this soften but not colour. It's important to keep stirring to make sure the leek doesn't colour and it cooks evenly.

Once it's soft and translucent add the diced celeriac - keep stirring to mix it with the leek and let it cook for a couple of minutes before adding the stock (or water if you prefer). Add just enough stock to cover the celeriac and let it simmer, uncovered, until the celeriac is very soft.

Place the hot mixture into a blender and process until smooth - for an ultra smooth result you can then push the soup through a strainer. Pour this out into a clean saucepan and add enough milk to bring it to a soup consistency. You could use cream for a richer result.

Taste and season with salt and freshly ground white pepper - place the soup back on a low heat and slowly bring it back to serving temperature.

Serve at once.

celeriac soup ©

I've kept this soup very simple for a good reason - because I wanted to savour the subtle taste of celeriac and really enjoy its unique texture. Made this way it's like drinking silk - it just slips over your tongue.
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