Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Black and White Cookies

It's been a while since I last made cookies so I thought I'd delve into Linda Collister's Baking Bible for a new recipe to try. There are many tasty offerings to choose from but I finally settled on the rather interesting Black and White Cookies.

The original recipe doesn't use chocolate chips but instead encourages the use of odd sized pieces cut from a chocolate block. Since I didn't have any solid dark chocolate in the pantry I decided to use Callebaut dark chocolate chips and just because I like white chocolate, I've also added Lindt white chocolate.

Black and White Cookies

Black and White Cookies

120 grams butter, softened
90 grams brown sugar
1 egg, lighten beaten
60 grams self-raising flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon vanilla essence/vanilla bean paste
120 grams rolled oats
90 grams dark chocolate, roughly chopped
90 grams white chocolate, roughly chopped

Place the butter and brown sugar the bowl of a mixer and beat until light and creamy.

Lightly whisk the egg with the vanilla essence (or vanilla bean paste) and add it a little at a time, only adding more once it has been fully incorporated.

Sift the flour and baking powder together and add to the bowl - beat until just combined before adding the oats and chocolate.

Beat at a low speed until just combined.

Roll teaspoonfuls of the mix into balls, flatten slightly and place on baking paper lined trays. Allow room for the cookies to spread. You can also use a small ice cream scoop to form the cookies and flatten them with a fork.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for about 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Let them cool slightly on the tray before moving them to a wire rack.

black and white cookies

The hardest part is stopping yourself from eating them while the chocolate is still runny!


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Cumquat Marmalade

Margot from Coffee and Vanilla is hosting AFAM this month and the theme is kumquats and she very nicely asked if I could repost this recipe as an entry. So here it is!

kumquat marmalade

Cumquat Marmalade/Kumquat Marmalade

250 grams Cumquats/Kumquats
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 1 vanilla bean, split in half)
1 tablespoon Cointreau (or Orange Liqueur)

Wash the cumquats then place them in a pot of boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and let them sit in the pot until cool.

When cool, cut the cumquats in half lengthways.

Place the sugar, water and vanilla bean paste (or vanilla bean) into a small pot and place over a medium heat - stirring until the sugar dissolves, then add the Cointreau. Stir again and add the halved cumquats. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down to a simmer, stirring occasionally and allow to cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the cumquats have become translucent.

Allow to cool in the pan - you'll notice that I keep the seeds in this helps the mixture set.

Store in a sealed container in the fridge - this will keep a couple of weeks if you haven't eaten it already!

cumquat marmalade

You can use this in cakes, with ice-cream and yoghurt, on toast or one of my favourite ways as a topping on sweet bruschetta - toasted brioche topped with creamy ricotta and a generous serving of cumquat marmalade. I especially love its vanilla speckled syrup, that is sweet but with that pleasant citrus tang.

sweet bruschetta

If you're not too sure about marmalade, then this is a good way to start.

Find the original post here.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Potato and Mushroom Bake

While flicking through the pages of Gennaro Contaldo's Italian Year I soon realised that I've only ever made one recipe from this book and that was an Espresso Granita.

With the weather turning considerably cooler a look through the Autumn section of the book seemed more appropriate and indeed it proved to be a fruitful search as I found the delicious sounding Tortino di Porcini e Patate in Salsa di Pomodoro (Porcini and Potato Bake with Tomato).

I didn't have any Porcini but that didn't stop me - I used Swiss brown mushrooms instead. In the original recipe the porcini are added raw to the dish but I felt I could get a bit more flavour from the mushrooms by quickly sautéing them with garlic and thyme.

It does take a bit of time to make this dish but you can assemble it ahead of time and then just cook it when you are ready to serve.

potato and mushroom bake

Potato and Mushroom Bake

Tomato Sauce:
olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 can crushed tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper

Sauteed Mushrooms:
olive oil
400 grams Swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
fresh thyme leaves

400 grams potato, sliced thickly and cooked until just tender
200 grams Fontina cheese, grated
fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

Make tomato sauce:

Heat a little olive oil in a deep saucepan over a low heat and add the onion and garlic - cook gently until the onions have softened and have started to colour. Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for about 25 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and the flavours have concentrated. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Cook the mushrooms:

Heat a little oil in a skillet over a medium heat and when heated add the sliced mushrooms and garlic. Cook until the mushrooms have browned and have released some of their excess liquid. Add the thyme leaves before removing from the heat.

Assemble the dish:

Place a little of the tomato sauce on the base of a baking dish. Cover with a layer of potato slices and then top with a little more of the tomato sauce, some chopped parlsey followed by the mushroom slices. Scatter over a little grated fontina then repeat the sequence until all the ingredients have used - finish with a potato layer that has been covered with a little tomato sauce, parsley and finally grated fontina.

potato and mushroom bake

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven until heated through and the cheese is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.

Potato and Mushroom Bake

Fontina has quite a distinctive taste (and aroma) and you could replace it with something like Swiss or Gruyere if preferred.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chestnut Soup

Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted this week by Margot from the delightfully tasty Coffee and Vanilla and this week I have fresh chestnuts.


Chestnuts, while common in Europe were relatively unknown here until the mid-1990's and back then, what few chestnuts were available weren't particularly of a good quality. It's great to see that in the years that have passed the chestnut industry has improved and now we have access to excellent specimens such as these.

When looking for chestnuts it's important that you seek out those with a shiny skin and that are well weighted for their size.

Before you can use these chestnuts you have to peel them. There are various ways to do this...boil, roast, microwave, I choose to boil them. First off regardless of method used it is important to score the skin - if you don't the chestnuts can explode when heated.

Once scored place the chestnuts into a pan of boiling water and let them simmer for about 15 minutes - the simmering will help to soften the skin.

You need to work on one chestnut at a time as the skin is removable only when the nut is hot - if you don't have asbestos fingers then its a good idea to wear gloves. Once the outer skin is removed you will find that there is also a fibrous skin.

peeling chestnuts

This inner skin is called the pellicle - sometimes it will come off along with the outer skin but if it doesn't just place the chestnut back in the boiling water and let it soak for a few minutes for it to soften. It should them just peel off the nut. Depending on the nuts structure you may need to break the chestnut apart to completely remove the skin from the various segments.

peeled chestnuts

Once completely peeled they are now ready to be used - if all this seems to be "too much trouble" you can buy chestnuts that have been pre-peeled.

I've decided to use these to make a very simple Chestnut Soup - ingredients have been kept to a minimum as I want the Chestnut flavour and its texture to be the star.

chestnut soup

Chestnut soup

1 small leek, finely sliced
350 grams peeled chestnuts, diced
freshly ground salt

Over a low heat, place a knob of butter and a little oil in a pot when the butter has melted add the leek. Cook slowly until the leek has softened but not coloured before adding the diced chestnuts.

Stir briefly and then add enough milk to cover the chestnuts by about 1cm. Simmer until the chestnuts have softened - the time taken will depend on the size of the diced chestnuts.

Using either a stick blender or food processor, blend the mixture until smooth - taste and then adjust the seasoning to suit.

Pour the mixture back into a clean pot - it will be fairly thick so you'll need to add enough milk or milk/water until you achieve your desired consistency.

Return to a low heat and simmer until warmed through.

chestnut soup

As it has quite a luxuriously creamy texture, I would recommend serving it as either a pre-dinner sip or in small bowls as a first course.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Romanesco Redux

I think my heart skipped a beat when I spotted its pointy green head peeking out from the vegetable stall...could it really be a Romanesco?


Indeed it was, although the shop is confusing calling it a "broccoflower" which up to now was the name given to the green cauliflower. I wasn't going to question this, I was just going to buy it, especially since they are currently selling it at a price lower than the standard cauliflower.


So if you are anywhere near Prahran Market and haven't ever tried one of these, then pop over and visit Organic Elements - just leave one for me!

The only problem I have with these vegetables are that they are just too fascinatingly beautiful but just staring at them just seems a waste.

This one has ended up joining it's rather pedestrian looking relative the cauliflower to create a green and white version of cavolfiore alla besciamella.

green and white cauliflower with béchamel

Green and White Cauliflower with Béchamel Sauce

white cauliflower, cut into medium sized florets
romanesco, cut into florets

Béchamel Sauce:
50 grams butter, diced
50 grams cornflour
750 mls/3 cups milk
25 grams grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
25 grams grated Tasty Cheese (you can use Swiss, cheddar, mozzarella, gruyere)
freshly ground white pepper
freshly ground salt
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano extra
grated tasty cheese, extra

Prepare the Cauliflowers:

Steam or boil until almost tender - leave a little bite in the vegetable as it will finish cooking in the oven.

Make the Béchamel Sauce:

In a saucepan, add the diced butter and melt over a medium heat. When just melted add the cornflower and stir, using a whisk until a smooth paste forms.

Let the paste cook for less than 30 seconds - make sure it doesn't get any colour. Add one cup of milk, whisking constantly. It may look lumpy but if you keep whisking they well break down and the mixture will harden again. As soon as it's hard, add the second cup of milk. Stir - this time you'll end up with a smooth thin sauce. Whisk occasionally over a low heat - it's important that you don't rush the process as you want to rid the sauce of any flour taste and that takes time. The sauce usually thickens from the outside in, so just whisk to amalgamate the differing consistencies.

Once it's thickened again add the final cup of milk and repeat the whisking process. This will give you quite a nice thick béchamel - you can add more milk if you want a more thinner sauce but only add it ¼ cup at a time until you achieve the desired thickness.

Add the grated cheeses and use a spoon to stir them through the sauce - continue cooking until the cheeses melt. Add a little white pepper and salt to taste. White pepper is preferred to Black pepper as it doesn't leave the sauce speckled with black dots. Take the sauce off the heat.

Assemble the dish:

Place the white cauliflower pieces over the bottom of your dish, sprinkle over with a little grated Parmigiano-Reggiano followed by some of the béchamel.

Now stud the romanesco florets amongst the white - I've stood some of the florets so they look almost like trees poking out of snow.

Drizzle over with the remaining béchamel and finish with a little more of the grated cheeses.

Bake in a pre-heated 180°C/350°F until golden brown and heated through.

Addendum: 29 april
There were no Romanesco's at the market today :(


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Spinach and Feta Tart

It should be part of cooking law - mix spinach and feta and you're guaranteed of success.

In this tart, I've used filo (or phyllo) pastry to make the shell. To add a little more flavour to the pastry after buttering each layer I've also sprinkled them with a little grated parmesan.

spinach and feta tart

Spinach and Feta Tart
[Makes a 20x28cm tart]

Filo/Phyllo pastry
melted butter, for the tart shell
1 bunch spinach, leaves picked, washed and dried
1 red onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
3 eggs
½ cup cream
½ cup milk
200 grams Feta (I used Dodoni Feta)
grated Parmesan

Make the filling:

Heat a little oil and a knob of butter in pan over a low heat and when the butter has melted add the onion. When the onion has softened but not coloured add the garlic. Continue to cook until the garlic has become translucent and then add the spinach.

Keep stirring until the spinach has wilted and then remove the pan from the heat. Let it cool before proceeding.

Make the tart base:

I used about 8 sheets of filo to form this base. Butter the sheet and lightly sprinkle it with a little finely grated parmesan. Place the next sheet over it and repeat the process until all 8 sheets are used.

Place the assembled sheets into the tart tin and mould it into shape.

Assemble the Tart:

Place the eggs, cream and milk into a bowl and lightly whisk until just amalgamated. Set aside.

Place the cooled filling into a bowl and break in half of the feta - stir vigorously to ensure it is mixed through. Taste and then add your seasoning. I found that there was enough salt in the feta so I didn't need to add any extra but I did add a little freshly ground white pepper.

Spoon this filling into the tart base and then crumble over with the rest of the feta. Keep the pieces of feta fairly random in size.

Pour in the egg mixture and then finish with a light sprinkle of parmesan.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for about 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through.


Let it cool for a few minutes in the tart tin before removing.

spinach and feta tart


Saturday, April 19, 2008

Almond Hummus

The Well-Seasoned Cook Susan is our host of this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and I seem to be continuing my journey with pulses and this time it's with Chickpeas (or Garbanzo beans)

dried chickpeas© by Haalo

These are dried chickpeas of the Kabuli variety. As with most pulses before they can be used they first need to be soaked overnight, uncovered, in a large quantity of cold water. The next day the water is discarded and the chickpeas boiled until tender - the length of time needed does depend on the age of the bean.

When it came to thinking of a dish to make with these chickpeas I really couldn't go past Hummus. The recipe is based on one by George Calombaris from his book The Press Club - the major change from the original is that I've replaced pinenuts for almonds.

I'm well aware that nuts of any type aren't in "traditional hummus" but I do think it's good to try something different - you never know you might just like it!

almond hummus© by Haalo

Almond Hummus

40 grams blanched almonds, roughly chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
250 grams cooked chickpeas
1 cup water (you can use chicken stock)
Tahini, to taste
Lemon juice, to taste
salt, to taste

Over a low heat, pour the olive oil into a saucepan and add the almonds. Cook slowly until golden.

Add the sliced garlic, stir well and cook until the garlic has softened but not coloured.

Add the chickpeas, stir them through and then pour in the water. Increase the heat and allow the mixture to simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.

Drain, reserving the liquid and place the chickpea mixture into a food processor. Process, adding enough of the reserved liquid to create a smooth paste.

Using the pulse button, add the tahini, lemon juice and salt to taste.

Spoon out the hummus into a serving bowl and if you are not serving it straight away, make sure you cover the dish with plastic wrap to help prevent oxidation.

almond hummus© by Haalo

I've eaten the pinenut hummus at the restaurant so I know it is delicious and this almond version works just as well - it lifts the flavour and gives you another element to enjoy.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Walnut Tea Loaf

I've always been guaranteed of success when baking from Liz Franklin's Quick Breads and this latest offering is no different.

Those with time issues will be pleased that this is a "one-bowl" recipe. It's an unusual loaf in that no eggs or butter are used - the lift is achieving by using self-raising flour and extra baking powder. It's a dense loaf but isn't too heavy and does toast up beautifully. Although sugar is used, it isn't really what you might consider a sweet bread - the walnuts impart an appealing savouriness to the bread.

Minor changes to the recipe have been made - the quantity of walnuts has increased by 50% and pearl sugar used to garnish the loaf.

walnut tea loaf

Walnut Tea Loaf

350 grams self-raising flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
100 grams caster sugar
150 grams chopped walnuts
300mls milk
2 tablespoons golden syrup (substitute molasses or treacle if golden syrup is unavailable)

Add the baking powder to the flour and then sift into a large bowl.

Sift in the sugar and stir well.

Sprinkle over the nuts and stir again - making sure they are well dispersed.

Whisk the golden syrup through the milk and then pour into the dry ingredients. Stir until just mixed through.

Pour into a buttered and floured loaf pan (8 cup capacity) - smooth out the top and then sprinkle with pearl sugar.

Bake in a preheated 180°C/350°F oven for 60 minutes or until golden and cooked through. If you feel the loaf is browning too quickly, drop the temperature of the oven and cover with foil.

Let it sit in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

walnut tea loaf

The bread does have a brown tinge to it due to the presence of golden syrup and you should be able to make out the air bubbles that give this loaf it's lightness.

Enjoy the bread as is on the day you make it but the next morning -

walnut tea loaf

it just calls out to be toasted. It's perfect topped with butter and honey.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Mixology Monday XXVI

Fruit Liqueur is the theme for this edition of Mixology Monday hosted by the ever wonderful Anna from Morsels and Musings.

With a veritable feast of fruit liqueurs to choose from I finally settled on one - Crème de Banana. But what should I make with it?

Inspiration and thirst came upon me quite quickly as I spied the bottle of Malibu lurking on the shelf and I thought I'd combine the two with some fresh banana and milk to create a creamy taste of the Caribbean.

Caribbean Dreaming

Caribbean Dreaming
[Makes 1]

15mls Crème de Banana
30mls Malibu
1 banana, chopped
½ cup milk

  • Place the Crème de Banana, Malibu, banana and milk into a blender and process until thick and creamy.
  • Pour into a tall glass and serve immediately.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Braised Puy Lentils

Jai and Bee from Jugalbandi are the hosts for this edition of Weekend Herb Blogging and this week I've got some Puy Lentils

puy lentils

Well, they are the same type of lentil grown in Le Puy-en-Velay but these are grown here in Australia and are sold as Puy Lentils.

Puy Lentils are considered to be the pinnacle of lentils due to their ability not to turn to an unappetising mush when cooked! In fact these lentils are so special that just like wines, they have an appellation which is recognised by the EU.

The recipe I'm making this week is pretty much a classic way to serve Puy Lentils. As it's the textural element that we're trying to highlight with the Puy Lentil, the flavourings need to come from the ingredients it's cooked with - in this case, a very slow braise of finely chopped vegetables, the time allowing the natural sugars to caramelise and the flavours to develop.

braised puy lentils

Braised Puy Lentils

1 cup Puy lentils, washed and drained
1 red onion, very finely chopped
1 carrot, very finely chopped
1 stalk celery, very finely chopped
1 red pepper/capsicum, very finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
25 grams dried Porcini mushrooms
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Prepare the Dried Porcini:
Place the dried Porcini in a bowl and pour enough boiling water to cover them - cover with a lid and allow to seep.
If you are lucky enough to have fresh Porcini on hand, then cook them with the rest of the braising vegetables.

Prepare the Braised Vegetables:
It's important that you cut the vegetables into a tiny dice - the technical term is brunoise. If you aren't confident with the knife then you could probably use a food processor but just be careful as they can go from small to homogeneous mass quite quickly.

In a large pan over a low heat, pour in a little olive oil and a knob of butter - when the butter has melted and started to sizzle, add the diced vegetables and stir.

Cook this gently until the vegetables soften and are starting to change colour - this should take 20-30 minutes.

While the vegetables are braising, place the lentils into pot and cover generously with cold water. Simmer until they have just softened - this can take between 15-30 minutes depending on the age of your lentils.

Drain them well - if you aren't going to use them straight away, spread them out and let them cool on an oven tray.

cooked puy lentils

They do lose a bit of colour when cooked but are still appealing.

Finish the dish:

Strain the porcini but keep the liquid - squeeze the porcini to remove any excess liquid and then slice finely.

Add the mushrooms to the braised vegetables and increase the heat slightly. Stir well and cook for 5 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle then add the lentils along with a ladleful or two of the porcini liquid.

Cook until the liquid has almost completely evaporated - taste and then season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

It's now ready to serve.

braised puy lentils

This dish goes well with any roasted or braised meats, perfect with sausages or cotechino and partners well with creamy mashed potatoes - it even tastes good on its own with some nice crusty bread.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Tea - Licorice Root

You might be hard pressed to believe that this tangled mess is edible - but indeed it is. These are dried Licorice (or Liquorice) roots and are used to make tea.

licorice root

The health properties associated with Licorice are well documented - it contains a natural expectorant so it can help soothe coughs and colds; it offers digestive relief by decreasing the amount of stomach acid and can help reduce stress and anxiety.

However, there are concerns with taking licorice in large doses or on a frequent basis as it can cause blood pressure to rise - if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant you should probably give it a miss but always check with your doctor to make sure.

If you are feeling a bit queasy or perhaps a cold is coming on, then a soothing cup of licorice root tea should make you feel better.

licorice root tea

One or Two sticks depending on size is all you need - let them brew for a few minutes before drinking.
licorice root tea

You shouldn't expect the commercial licorice flavour that we associate with modern day sweets as they are flavoured using aniseed rather than a product of the licorice plant.

The tea has a more woody, resinous flavouring to begin with which then finishes with a pleasant and distinctive sweetness.


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Fennel Remoulade

It's been a little while but Weekend Herb Blogging returns home to Kalyn's Kitchen and this week I've got some fennel bulbs


Botanically, it is known as Florence Fennel and the bulb, stems, fronds and seeds can all be used. Nutritionally, Fennel contains Vitamins A, B6, B12, and C, Folate, Riboflavin, and Thiamine as well as Calcium, Copper, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium and Zinc.

One of the more perplexing aspects of Fennel is the notion of male and female fennel - if you look at the photo below you will see two distinct styles of Fennel


On the left is a slender, narrow bulb while on the right, a more squat and rotund version. In my research, depending on which expert you read, one will tell you that slender one is the male while another will tell you that the slender one is female! With such confusion it is probably safe to assume that there is no male or female versions and that in all probability, the rounded version was thought of a "female" due to its more voluptuous appearance.

In order to get around this issue I'll be using both types in my dish of Fennel Rémoulade.

Rémoulade is a mayonnaise based sauce that is combined, in the most basic recipes, with mustard and lemon juice. More elaborate versions can incorporate cornichons, shallots, capers and parsley.

fennel rémoulade

Fennel Rémoulade

fennel bulb
whole-grain mustard
lemon juice
fennel fronds, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Remove the thicker outer layer of the fennel and then slice the bulb as thinly as possible. I've varied my slices, cutting across the top to highlight the natural curve of the bulb and also cutting down the bulb to form thin sticks.

In a small bowl, place a little mayonnaise, whole-grain mustard, finely chopped fennel fronds and a squeeze of lemon juice - stir and taste, adjusting to suit your palate.

Place the sliced fennel in a dish and then add the sauce a spoonful at a time - it's important that the fennel is only lightly coated - you don't want to weigh it down with too much sauce.

fennel remoulade

Best served immediately and it is well suited as a side to seafood or grilled meats.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Cheese: Udder Delights

It's been a while since I last had some cheese from Udder Delights so why not celebrate with their new release.

udder delights goats brie

Cheese Maker - Udder Delights
Cheese Name - Goats Brie
Cheese Cellar - 91a Main Road Handorf, SA
Open: 7 days - 9am to 5pm
Closed: Good Friday, Christmas and Boxing Day

goat brie

The milk is sourced from a mainly Saanen Goat herd while non-animal rennet is used in the cheese-making process.

goat brie

Compared with the Udder Delights Goat Camembert this is a little firmer though the signs are there that it will soften considerably.

goat brie

According to the cheese-makers it will break down to a wonderfully molten cheese - to serve at its fully ripened stage you would cut the top off and just scoop out the soft interior - very similar to the Holy Goat Ripe Pandora.

Tastewise, clean flavours with a definite goat "tang" wrapped in a pleasant creaminess.

Other Udder Delights Cheese:
Goats Camembert

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