Sunday, March 30, 2008

Banana Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Bread

Ramona from The Houndstooth Gourmet is hosting this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and I think it's about time I revisit one of the more surprising herbs

banana© by Haalo

Yes, that is a banana and as I found out in an earlier WHB, bananas are indeed herbs - well the plants on which bananas grow are herbs and the banana is its fruit.

Nutritionally, bananas seem to contain a bit of everything - Vitamins A, B, B6, B12, C, E,K, Betaine, Choline, Folate, Niacin, Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin and Thiamin as well as Calcium, Copper, Fluroride, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium and Zinc.

The recipe I'm making today is based on one from AWW's "Cook" - I've made some minor changes to the ingredients to mirror my own preferences, hazelnuts replace walnuts and I've decreased the sugar but increased the nut and chocolate quantities. I've also given it a crunchy top in the form of a good sprinkling of pearl sugar.

Banana, Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Bread

Banana, Hazelnut and Chocolate Chip Bread

200 grams mashed bananas
140 grams caster sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup milk
200 grams self-raising flour, sifted
120 grams chopped roasted hazelnuts (or filberts)
80 grams dark chocolate chips
pearl sugar, for topping

Place the mashed bananas and the sugar into a bowl and stir well to combine.

Add the chocolate chips and hazelnuts and stir them through.

Whisk the eggs with the melted butter and milk and then pour this into the banana mixture - stir again and then add the sifted flour.

Fold through until just combined.

Pour into a buttered and floured 9cmx27cm or 8 cup capacity loaf pan - sprinkle with pearl sugar and then bake in a preheated 160°C/320°F for about an hour or until cooked through and golden.

Cool slightly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

banana, hazelnut and choc chip bread© by haalo

If you eat it warm, the chocolate will still be gooey.

banana, hazelnut and choc chip bread© by Haalo

You can, if you show great restraint, cut thick slices and toast it the next day. It can also be used to make French toast.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Green Split Pea Soup with Chorizo

This month's host for Waiter, There's something in my... is Jeanne from Cooksister and she has selected Pulses as the theme.

I don't really uses pulses all that often as Paalo isn't a great fan of them so this is a good excuse to cook them! I've opted to go with a "user friendly" type in the form of green split peas

split green peas

There's one thing you always have to do - go through the lot and pick out the yellow ones.

split green peas

I suppose one of the more popular uses is in the traditional pea and ham soup but I'm feeling a little lazy and have come up with a stripped down version.

I've cooked the peas along with a little potato, onions, celery, garlic and chilli flakes in a mix of milk and water until tender, then blended until smooth. It's then topped with a crispy dice of spicy chorizo that just ooze with smoky paprika goodness.

Green Split Pea Soup with Chorizo

Green Split Pea Soup with Chorizo

1 cup green split peas, washed and drained
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled
chilli flakes, to taste
1 small potato, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
Spicy Chorizo, diced into small cubes

Heat a little oil and butter in a saucepan over a low heat and when the butter has melted add the onion, celery, garlic and chilli flakes. Cook this gently until just softened but not coloured.

Add the split green peas and diced potato and stir through the onion mixture.

Pour over with enough milk to cover and then add enough water to cover the lot by about an inch. I'm using milk rather than a stock as milk is a great flavour carrier and it also gives the soup an added dimension of creaminess.

Let this simmer until the peas have softened. You may need to add more water as it cooks.

When soft, pour into a blender and blend until smooth.

Return the blended soup to a clean saucepan - taste and season with salt and ground white pepper. Add more milk to slacken the mixture to your preferred consistency then place back on the heat to come back to serving temperature.

Cook the diced chorizo in a dry pan over a low heat until crisp - the chorizo will release its paprika infused fat as it cooks.

Pour the soup out into bowls and add a good mound of the cooked chorizo into the centre. Serve at once.

Green Split Pea Soup with Chorizo

I've served these in large cup as it's the type of comforting soup you just want to clasp in both hands. As the chorizo sits in the soup more of the paprika will leech out forming saffron coloured tendrils as you stir the soup.

Green Split Pea Soup with Chorizo

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fregola with Roasted Vegetables and Prawns

For this edition of Presto Pasta Night I'll be using another Sardinian pasta called Fregola,


Fregola is similar to couscous - semolina is mixed with water and then hand-rolled to form small pellets. These pellets are then dried and toasted to form fregola


These are a lot larger than the fregola sarda I've used before - they are closer in size to moghrabieh.

Once again I'll be making a rather simple dish and combining the fregola with roasted vegetables and seared prawns.

fregola with roasted vegetables and prawns

Fregola with Roasted Vegetables and Prawns

1 onion, quartered
1 small fennel bulb, sliced thickly
1 zucchini, cut into thick pieces
1 Japanese eggplant, sliced thickly
carrots, cut into thick sticks
mushrooms, quartered
asparagus spears
garlic cloves
tiger prawns, butterflied

Prepare the Vegetables:

Regardless of the vegetables you use, make sure they are cut to reflect their respective cooking tips. Since they will all be roasted together, cutting them to the right size will make sure they will cooking evenly.

Cook the Vegetables:

Place all your vegetables in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, along with a grinding of salt and pepper. Toss well and then spread out to form one layer on a baking tray. Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven until cooked through.

Complete the dish:

Cook the fregola in boiling salted water until tender.

When the fregola is almost done, quickly cook the prawns in a hot pan.

Drain the fregola and place in a bowl along with the roasted vegetables - toss to combine and then spoon out onto serving bowls. Top with seared prawns and serve at once.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cheese: Grandvewe

The people at Grandvewe must have a sense of humour going by their choice of names for their various cheeses - take for example this one, Blue By Ewe

grandvewe blue by ewe

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

grandvewe blue by ewe

Blue By Ewe is a Roquefort style cheese made using penicillium roqueforti and is hand salted with Murray River salt.

grandvewe blue by ewe

There's a good degree of marbling - deep green in colour.

grandvewe blue by ewe

It is a bit crumbly but not at all dry. The sheep milk brings a sweetness to the flavour - pleasantly creamy with a delicious tang.

Other Grandvewe Cheese:
Grandvewe Birchs Bay Blonde
Grandvewe Ewe Bewety

Other Blue Cheese:
King Island Roaring Forties Blue
King Island Blue Rolle
Maffra Glenmaggie Blue
Tarago River Shadows of Blue
Tarago River Strzelecki Goat's Blue


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Smoked Trout and Kipfler Potato Salad

Katie from Thyme for Cooking is our host for this Easter edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and it seems I've gone all misty-eyed about dill again


Dill is almost ethereal - those delicate, feathery fronds combine with an intriguing scent of anise.

A little while back I used dill and fresh ocean trout fillets to make gravlax, this time I'll be using a recipe from the March 2008 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller which uses smoked rainbow trout fillets

smoked trout fillets

You can use whole smoked rainbow trout and just skin and fillet them but if you are feeling a little lazy or just can't be bothered with the skin and the bones, then fillets are the perfect solution. You could also replace the smoked rainbow trout for any smoked fish.

The dish itself couldn't be easier - served on toasted bread, steamed kipfler potatoes are mixed with flaked trout flesh and drizzled with a dressing made from sour cream, malt vinegar and dill - to finish, soft boiled eggs, the runnier the better!

smoked trout and potato salad

Smoked Trout and Kipfler Potato Salad
(Serves 2)

1 smoked trout fillet, flaked
kipfler potatoes, steamed until just tender and thickly sliced
2 soft boiled eggs, peeled, cut in half
2 slices good quality toasted bread - I used a walnut and rye loaf
50 grams light sour cream
1 teaspoon malt vinegar
finely chopped dill, to taste

To boil eggs, I use the Delia Smith method - place them in cold water and bring them rapidly to boil, when boiling, turn the heat down to a bare simmer and cook for 4 minutes. This will give you those just set boiled eggs. If you like them harder, then just increase the final simmering time.

Make the dressing:

Place the sour cream in a bowl, add the vinegar and finely chopped dill - stir until mixed through.

Make the salad:

Put the potato slices and flaked trout into a bowl - season with a little freshly ground salt and white pepper and then toss gently to combine.

Plate the salad:

Place a slice of toast onto each plate - pile the salad loosely over the top, drizzle over with the dressing and then add the soft boiled egg halves.

Serve immediately.

smoked trout and potato salad

You could add the dressing directly to the salad and mix it through - it doesn't quite look as nice but it's just as tasty. If you want to make the dish a little more luxurious, you can follow the original recipe and add salmon roe.


Friday, March 21, 2008

Festa Italiana

Maryann and Marie are co-hosting an event called Festa Italiana in which we're encouraged to share our favourite Italian dish or drink. It would be quite remiss of me not to take part and it's given me the perfect excuse to make one of my most favourite tarts. You always knew it was a special occasion when my mother would make this "torta".

torta meringata con mele

Torta Meringata con Mele
[Makes 1x22cm/9 inch tart]

Pasta frolla
2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 lemon, zested
250 grams caster sugar
4 eggs

Line the base of a 22cm/9inch loose bottomed tart pan with the pasta frolla. Set it aside while you make the filling.

Prepare the filling:

The filling will require 4 egg yolks but only 2 egg whites - the other 2 egg whites will go to make the meringue topping - set these aside until you are ready to use them.

Place the grated apple into a bowl and add the sugar and lemon zest - stir well to mix.

Add the egg yolks, one at a time, making sure they are fully incorporated into the apple mix before adding the next.

When this is done, whisk up 2 egg whites until soft peak forms.

Add a spoon full of egg white to the apple mix to slacken and then fold through the remaining egg white.

Bake the tart:

Pour this into your prepared pastry case. If you have too much filling, just pour it into a small heatproof dish and bake it separately

Place the cake pan onto an oven tray as the tart can release some moisture and bake in a preheated 160°C/320°F oven until golden on top and cooked through. If you feel that it's browning too quickly, cover with baking paper and foil and drop the temperature of the oven.

It will take around 40 minutes - the filling should be almost firm and the pastry cooked.

Now beat the remaining egg whites until soft peak form, adding a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar to sweeten the meringue.

Drop spoonfuls of meringue onto the cake and then roughly push it cover the top. No need to be precious as the roughness gives it some character.

Return to the oven and cook until the meringue has coloured - this should take about 5-10 minutes.

Let the tart stand in the pan until cooled before un-moulding.

torta meringata con mele

This has a most amazing taste and texture - during cooking, the grated apples tend to rise leaving a lemon scented quasi-custard to form at the base of the tart. The top of the filling browns creating an almost caramelised apple layer. If that wasn't enough you have that marshmallowy softness of just baked meringue crowning the whole thing.

It's a tart that once tasted, you'll never forget it.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

School Prawns

It's not often that I see these available in their raw form so it's no surprise that I just to get some.

School Prawns

By itself, you really don't get any indication of their size, or lack of it so I thought a comparison shot taken with a normal sized Tiger prawn would help - I should add that this was one of the larger school prawns in my stash.

school and tiger prawns

School prawns have a sweeter flesh and are more usually sold cooked, due to their short shelf life.

With happy memories of a deep fried prawn dish at The Press Club, it gave me the perfect excuse to get George Calombaris' The Press Club cookbook and try to replicate the dish

The Press Club Cookbook

This is a dish that won't go down well with those that don't like their food looking at them but believe me, it's an incredibly delicious way to enjoy these prawns - what's more, you eat everything, from head to tail!

deep fried school prawns

Deep-fried School Prawns

300 grams School Prawns
75 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon celery salt
lemon wedges, to serve

Prepare the prawns:

Lay the prawns on paper towels on one level and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to soak up any excess liquid.

Place the flour in a bowl and add the dried prawns - toss them well to ensure they are well coated.

Take a handful of these floured prawns and place them in a sieve - shake them to eliminate the excess flour - it's important that the prawns have just a whisper of flour over them. Repeat with the remaining prawns. Most of the flour will be left in the bowl - discard it.

Only flour the prawns when you are ready to deep-fry them.

Deep-fry the prawns:

Use a deep-pan or a wok and using a good neutral oil, heat it until it reaches 180°C/350°F. You can then cook the prawns in batches until golden and crisp - this will take a couple of minutes.

Drain on paper towels to remove any excess oil and then sprinkle over with the celery salt.

Serve immediately with lemon or a good aioli.

deep fried school prawns

Be brave and do eat the whole thing and if you don't believe me, trust in the words of George Calombaris
we need to educate our diners to eat the entire prawn as the flavour is in the head


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Cheese: Boosey Creek

I've been holding onto this cheese post as I knew nothing about the cheese-makers and couldn't really find any information about them. As it happens, the farmers' market was having a regional promotion and rather fortunately the cheese-makers where there - so not only did I find out more about their cheese I also got to sample more of their range.

Boosey Creek Warby Red

Cheese Maker: Boosey Creek Cheese
Cheese: Warby Red Washed Rind
Address: 734 Grinter Road, Boosey, Victoria
Open: 10am-5pm Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays/Victorian School Holidays

boosey creek warby red

That tell-tale orange skin should immediately let you know that this is a washed rind cheese. In the words of the cheese-makers, it is "hand-washed in our secret blend".

boosey creek warby red

All the milk used comes from their own herd of Friesian-Holstein cows - with the cheese making facilities located within the dairy.

boosey creek warby red

Unlike most of the other washed rinds, this is quite a firm cheese - in fact it is surprisingly firm give the ripe aromas wafting from its skin. Even leaving it out reach room temperature didn't alter the firmness.

boosey creek warby red

If you eat the skin, then this is a rather potent cheese - Paalo who loves his blue cheese even felt it was just too overpowering. However, remove the skin and the cheese itself is very pleasant - there's enough of those washed rind characters coming through but the creaminess of the cheese softens the overall flavour.

Not for the faint hearted but if you'd like to try it - here in Melbourne, it's only available at Leo's in Kew.

Other Washed Rind Cheese:

Woodside Cheese Wrights Etzy Ketzy (cow/goat)
Red Hill Cheese Bushranger Gold (goat)
Barambah Gold Hawk Washed Rind (cow)
Hunter Belle Goldenbelle (cow)
Barossa Valley Cheese Company Le Petit Prince (goat)
Barossa Valley Cheese Company Washington Washed Rind (cow)
King Island Dairy Stormy (cow)
King Island Dairy Discovery Scrubbed Brie (cow)


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mint Tea

Kel from Green Olive Tree is our host for Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I have a very fragrant herb - Mint.


Growing up I was mint deprived - it wasn't a herb my mother used in Italy so she didn't use it here. Not that I complained about missing out, a hospital stay as a child and some minted peas later ensured my dislike of mint - hospital food would ensure a dislike of any food served there.

Oddly enough, "sweet mint" flavours weren't a problem, you certainly couldn't keep me away from mint ice-cream but heaven help even the thought of those "savoury" mint flavours. Luckily, I grew up and learnt to appreciate all flavours and uses of mint.

Mint is one of those plants that seem to grow in the tiniest of cracks without a drop of water - they are weed-like in their ability to survive and multiply. There are hundreds of varieties of Mint and they grow just about everywhere.

Historically, Mint was used as an aid to digestion and as a diuretic. Nutritionally, it contains Vitamins A, C, Folate and Niacin along with Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Sodium and Zinc.

For this week's recipe I've sought to make something refreshing - summer has decided to hit us one last time and has brought a mini heat-wave to town. I can't complain too much as February was actually quite mild and summer in general hasn't been as bad as it has in the past.

I've decided to make a Mint Tea - inspired greatly by Moroccan Mint Tea but as I am not Moroccan nor have I been to Morocco, I won't be claiming any authenticity to this recipe.

To make the tea I'll be using this - Gunpowder Green Tea


and the first thing you'll notice is that it isn't green! It's resemblance to gunpowder pellets is said to be how it got it's English name.

I've noticed that in traditional Moroccan recipes a hard rock sugar is used and since I don't have access to that, I've used use raw sugar. This recipe also produces a tea that isn't as sweet as you would find as personally, I don't take sugar in regular tea - so keep that in mind if you decide to make this.

mint tea

Mint Tea

1 tablespoon Gunpowder green tea
1 tablespoons raw sugar (use more or less to taste)
2 cups water
large handful mint leaves
extra mint leaves for serving

Place the tea, sugar, mint leaves and water into a pot and slowly bring to just under boiling point - stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let it bubble for a few minutes before taking it off the heat - then let it steep for 5 minutes.

mint leaves

Add fresh mint leaves to your glasses and using a strainer, pour the tea over the leaves.

As it's hot I've made an iced version - I've just let the tea steep until cool and added ice cubes to my glass along with the extra mint leaves.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cherry White Chocolate Cupcakes

I've been besotted by those Nigella Cupcakes I made a few weeks back and have been tinkering with different flavours. These are one of those experiments where I've incorporated cherries and white chocolate. Don't worry if it's not cherry season where you are, I've used frozen cherries and they've come up a treat!

cherry white chocolate cupcakes

Cherry and White Chocolate Cupcakes
[Makes 12]

125 grams self-raising flour
125 grams butter, softened and cut into small pieces
90 grams caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste/vanilla extract
handful white chocolate, chopped (I use Lindt)
generous handful cherries, stoned (fresh, canned or frozen)

Place the flour, butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla into a food processor and process until combined. Add enough milk to form a smooth, soft batter.

Pour the mixture out into a bowl and then stir in the chopped white chocolate.

If you are using frozen cherries, don't defrost them, just use them straight from the freezer.

Add the cherries and then gently fold them through the mix - they will leech a little colour into the batter.

Scoop the mix into the cupcake cases - because of the effects of having white chocolate and cherries the mixture won't rise as much so you can more generous when filling the cases.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F for about 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Cool the cupcakes on a wire rack before icing.

cherry white chocolate cupcakes


Sunday, March 09, 2008

Frisee aux Lardons

Weekend Herb Blogging heads to Australia when the lovely Anna from Morsels and Musings is our gracious host and this week I find myself surrounded in a head of Frisée!


Frisée is probably more recognized as "that spiky leaf" in salad mixes but it certainly is more than worthy to be admired in its own right.


Part of the Daisy family, Frisée is a close relative of endive/chicory - its familial bitter flavours developing as the leaves darken. If you prefer a more delicate flavour then seek out the inner leaves that are a pale yellow in colour.

To honour this leaf, I'll take inspiration from that classic French Bistro dish - Frisée aux Lardons - a dressed salad of frisée mixed with crisp bacon lardons and topped with a wonderfully gooey poached egg.


Frisée aux Lardons

frisée, leaves separated, washed and dried
bacon lardons (substitute pancetta or speck)
poached eggs
Seeded Mustard Dressing:
4 parts olive oil
1 part sherry vinegar
seeded mustard, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Make the dressing:
Place the olive oil, sherry vinegar, seeded mustard and a good grinding of salt and black pepper into a bowl - whisk until emulsified.

Prepare the lardons:
Lardons are just thick strips of bacon - I buy bacon in whole pieces and just cut them to size. You can buy them pre-made or use pancetta or speck if you prefer.

Dry-fry the bacon in a non-stick pan until crisp - they will release any excess fat as they cook. When done, dry them on kitchen paper to remove any excess fat.

Assemble the salad:

Place the frisée leaves into a bowl and drizzle over the dressing - toss them well to just coat them.

Put the dressed leaves onto a plate and then scatter over with the cooked lardons.

frisée salad

You can add a little extra dressing over the salad if desired.

Finally top the salad with a soft poached egg - if you are a bit unsure when it comes to poaching eggs, do what Nigella does and just use a shelled soft boiled egg - the end result is virtually the same.

frisee salad

When you slice through the egg, the warm yolk will spill out and join with the dressing to give it an almost creamy texture. This is excellent with slices of fresh baguette or even as the filling to a baguette roll - the bread must be fresh to be able to soak up those wonderful juices.
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