Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tasty Bits of 2008

As 2008 draws to a close, it's a good time to reflect on the year. I've trawled through the archives and come up with a baker's dozen of my favourite dishes of the year.

flat bread crackers© by Haalo

Flat bread crackers - I don't know what was better, the dead simple recipe or the look of those finger-shaped shards.

zucchini falafel© by Haalo

Zucchini Falafel - part of my falafel odyssey, I even managed to make an oven baked version of Sweet Potato Falafel.

gozleme© by Haalo

Gözleme - consider it a type of middle-eastern pizza but the secret is the dough - made with just yoghurt, self-raising flour and salt, it was a revelation.

stuffed sardines© by Haalo

Stuffed Sardines - if you think you don't like sardines, then try this recipe, I think it might just convert you.

butterflied garlic prawns© by Haalo

Garlic Butter Tiger Prawns - a little bit decadent but a whole lot of delicious.

torta della nonna© by Haalo

Torta della Nonna or Grandmother's Pie - these next two couldn't be split so I've included them both. I loved this as each bite brought back memories of Italy.

Torta Meringata con Mele© by Haalo

Torta Meringata con Mele or Apple Pie with Meringue - an edible memory. For very special occasions my mother would make this torta and I can't believe it took me this long to make it myself.

queen of puddings© by Haalo

Queen of Puddings - for such a regal sounding dessert, it really couldn't be anymore "peasant" in nature.

chocolate pecan cookies© by Haalo

Chocolate Pecan Cookies - these were dubbed "the best cookies ever"

fig twist© by Haalo

Fig Twist - I didn't do that much yeast baking this year but this one I'm glad to have found the time to make.

strawberry and basil compote© by Haalo

Strawberries and Basil Compote - macerated strawberries find their ideal and usual match in basil. At the base of each dish is a sweet basil pesto made with fresh basil, pinenuts and icing sugar.

milk ice cream© by Haalo

Milk Ice Cream - If I was only allowed to eat one ice-cream, it would be this one.

mint tea© by Haalo

After those twelve, lucky 13 must be a refreshing beverage and Mint Tea made with gunpowder green tea and fresh mint leaves is the perfect tonic.

Here's hoping 2009 will be the tastiest yet!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mixed Tomato Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella and Anchovies

The Russians are here!

black russian tomatoes© by Haalo

Black Russian tomatoes that is and I for one, welcome their arrival.

It's a tomato that I've had miserable luck growing. I think in all my attempts I've only ever managed to harvest one lone tomato. So when I noticed one of the stallholders at Prahran market had them, they quickly ended up in my shopping basket.

black russian tomatoes© by Haalo

They were soon joined by these adorable red and yellow cherry tomatoes.

red and yellow cherry tomatoes© by Haalo

With a few more ingredients I was able to mimic a tomato salad I've been enjoying lately at Church Street Enoteca.

Agostino Recca Anchovies© by Haalo

Luckily I was able to find some of my favourite anchovies - these are by Agostino Recca

Agostino Recca Anchovies© by Haalo

and while they aren't overpowering, they do have much more flavour then the Entreislas Anchovies I used in the eggplant stacks.

Mixed Tomato Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella and Anchovies© by Haalo

Mixed Tomato Salad with Buffalo Mozzarella and Anchovies

Black Russian Tomatoes
Red and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes
1 buffalo mozzarella - I used Shaw River, ripped into bite sized pieces
Anchovy fillets, sliced finely
Aged Balsamic Vinegar
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
sea salt
snipped chives
basil leaves, ripped

Sliced the Black Russian tomatoes into wedges and cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and sprinkle over with the sliced anchovy fillets and snipped chives - toss gently to combine.

In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic, oil and a pinch of sea salt until amalgamated. Drizzle this over the tomatoes and toss to combine. Finish with a sprinkling of ripped Basil leaves.

To serve, transfer a quarter of the salad into your serving bowl and scatter pieces of mozzarella over the salad, top with another quarter of the salad and some more mozzarella pieces. Repeat until all ingredients have been used.

Drizzle over with the collected juices and finish with a little more ripped basil.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging #164 Hosting

Weekend Herb Blogging is back after taking a well deserved one-week break. I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas and are ready to take on 2009.

To participate:
Post about any herb, plant, fruit, vegetable or flower - I encourage participants to read the rules to ensure that your post does qualify.

Entries must be received by:
  • 3pm Sunday - Utah Time
  • 10pm Sunday - London Time
  • 9am Monday - Melbourne (Aus) Time
Send your email to hellohaalo AT gmail DOT com
with the following details:
  • Your Name
  • Your Blog Name/URL
  • Your Post URL
  • Your Location
  • Attach a photo: 250px wide

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jasper Coffee Christmas Blend

Every year Jasper Coffee produces a special blend for Christmas - this year it is called Santa's Golden Bean.

jasper coffee santa's golden bean© by Haalo

A rather delicious blend of Peaberries and Fancy Arabica that produces a rich and sweet coffee, free from any bitter aftertaste. It is interesting to note that the coffee is made using Australian grown beans from  Skybury Estate in Queensland.

Since this is only available for a limited time, you'll need to hurry if you'd like to try some. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

It just wouldn't be Christmas

ravioli© by Haalo

without my mother's ravioli.

You can find out how we make them here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Degustation

Our Christmas Eve dinner was a bit different this year - due to the presence of a couple of these black beauties

Périgord truffle© by Haalo

This year we managed to score two Périgord truffles for Christmas and so decided to feature them in a degustation dinner.


Truffled Parsnip Soup with Shaved Truffle - similar to this soup but have omitted the leek and decreased the quantity of potato. A few truffle slices were also added to the soup while it was cooking.

Usuzukuri© by Haalo

Hapuka and Hiramasa Kingfish "Usuzukuri" - based on a dish by Tetsuya Wakuda. Slivers of Hapuka and Kingfish are drizzled with a dressing of soy, mirin, pickled ginger and lemon juice. It's then topped with a mix of micro herbs and greens and Yarra Valley Salmon Roe.


Caramelised Onion and Truffle Tart - based on a recipe by Serge Dansereau. The tart is comprised of a simple puff pastry base and is topped with warmed caramelised onions that have been adjusted with a little sour cream. It's crowned with slivers of black truffle.


Stuffed Zucchini in Tempura Batter - simply stuffed with a mix of ricotta, persian fetta, parmesan and chives. Finished off with a drizzle of 30 yo Balsamic.


Chive Butter Tiger Prawns - similar to this recipe


Mixed Mushrooms and Truffle "al Cartoccio" - based on this recipe. In this version, I've used king pine, oyster and shimeji mushrooms along with truffle slices.

I didn't take any photos of the main course but we did enjoy a simple trio - Roast Beef with Truffle Mustard, Cauliflower in Truffled Béchamel Sauce and a mixed tomato salad.

Dessert was a rather gorgeous Trifle made by my sister that I also forgot to take a photo of. I'll just blame that on the champagne and hope she'll make another!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cherry Butter Cake

christmas tree cake mould© by Haalo

I think I've had this particular cake tin for about three years and in all that time I've never used it. Every Christmas I would promise myself to use it but alas, I would find an excuse not to. My major fear was having the cake stick and break in that highly decorative mould.

This year it was about time that I kept my promise and I'm very happy that I did! The original recipe is from Home Beautiful and uses frozen raspberries, though I've used cherries (and increased the quantity) - you could easily replace them for your favourite fruit.


Cherry Butter Cake

½ teaspoon bicarb of soda
1 cup cold water
600 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
250 grams butter, cut into cubes, softened
300 grams caster sugar
4 eggs
400 grams frozen cherries
icing sugar, for dusting

Place the bicarb and water into a jug - stir until dissolved and set to one side.

Sift the flour with the cream of tartar into a bowl and set to one side.

Place the butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, ensuring they are well incorporated before adding the next.

Using a metal spoon, alternately add the flour and water mixture to the batter, gently stirring until combined.

If using frozen berries, rinse them briefly under water to remove any ice crystals and then add them to the batter. Fold them gently through the batter.

Although the mould I used is non-stick, I did still butter and flour it.

Spoon the mixture into the mould - after filling, I banged the mould on the bench to make sure there were no air bubbles.

Place the tin on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 170°C/320°F oven for about 1 to 1¼ hours or until golden and cooked through. If you find the top is browning too quickly, cover with foil and lower the oven temperature.

Let the cake stand in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out.

cherry butter cake©by Haalo

When cool, sprinkle over with a light dusting of icing sugar.

cherry butter cake©by Haalo

Can I cut you a tree?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Herb Blogging - Recap

It's appropriate that for an event that celebrates the holiday season, we have entries to suit just about every course.


Roasted Tomato, Basil and Goat Cheese Holiday Spread

Weekend Herb Blogging's CEO Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen provides us with a great way to start our Holiday gatherings. It may well be winter but Kalyn's clever planning has insured she can still enjoy the taste of summer. Not only is this spread made from roasted tomatoes, basil and goat cheese, it even has Christmas colours!


Mediterranean Angus Beef Steak

From Manilla, Ning from Heart and Hearth finds inspiration from the Mediterranean. To complement special Angus Beef Steaks, Ning creates a tangy topping of olives, capers, garlic and onion.


In India, Sra from When My Soup Came Alive offers up a curry leaf infused Biriyani. In this dish, you'll find Chicken, cinnamon and coriander as well as coconut milk - a perfect dish for sharing.

Potato Mussakà

Tatiana from Florence offers up a quick dish of Potato Mussakà for which you could easily adapt to use that Christmas Turkey or Chicken.

Brined Quail with Agresto Sauce

brined quail with agresto sauce© by Haalo

My own offering for those that are cooking for the few rather than the masses. Quails are soaked in a herb infused brine for a few hours and then roasted until golden. To finish they are tossed through Agresto Sauce, a pesto-like sauce that dates from the middle ages.


Psares (Ψαρές)


In Crete we find Maria from Organically Cooked and she shares with us a local ingredient called Psares. A member of the pea family, Psares is traditionally eaten during the 40 day fasting period before Christmas. Check out Maria's post to find out more.


Gailan (Chinie Broccoli) in Oyster Sauce, Two Ways

TS and JS from [eating club] vancouver serve up, not one but two ways to enjoy Gailan (Chinese Broccoli). The one you see here uses a sasagaki cutting method and unbelievable only 3 ingredients. For the second way, you'll have to read their post!

Cauliflower au Gratin

Moving over to Toronto, Elizabeth from Blog from Our Kitchen discovers that you can actually improve cauliflower au gratin - there are two special ingredients one of which is the Bay Laurel, the other, well, I don't want to spoil the surprise.


Apricot Summer Soup

Anna from Morsels and Musings in Sydney creates an intriguing Apricot Summer soup - made from a mix of semi-dried apricots and amardine. As it is rich, Anna recommends serving it in small portions - it makes an ideal pre-dessert.

Low-Fat Cranberry Creme Brulee

Yasmeen from Health Nut proves you can have your brulee and eat it too with this delectable low fat version of a sinful delight. I think we can now justify having two!

Kumquat and Rice Cake

Marija from Palachinka offers up a creamy flan for our festive table. Milk is infused with clementine peel, cloves and cinnamon and this flavoured milk is used to cook the rice. Diced clementines are added to the rice mix which is then topped with sliced kumquats and baked. I can just imagine how wonderful this must taste and how wonderful your house must smell while it's baking.


Glögg or Glüwien

The lovely Brii from Briiblog from the equally lovely Lake Garda in Italy provides us with a classic holiday beverage - Glögg or Glüwien. If it's cold and miserable where you are, then this will surely warm you up. Brii shares with us three delightful versions - White and Red Glögg and Glüwien and even gives us some gift ideas.

Liquore Centerbe

Cinzia from Cindystar is also from Lake Garda offers one of my favourite digestives - Liquore Centerbe (which translates to Liqueur of a hundred herbs). This home made liqueur does take some time to make, so start in summer and by Christmas it will be ready. Cinzia uses a mix of herbs that include basil, laurel, mint, camomile and liquorice root just to name a few.

Sweet Treats:

Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds

I think we can all heartily agree with Cheryl from Gluten Free Goodness that everything tastes better covered in chocolate! Even though Cheryl hasn't been feeling the best she still manages to whip up some treats for our holiday feast.

Thank you to all who took part, we have a truly scrumptious table in which to feast.

Thank you to the hosts that generously give of their time and thank you to everyone that has taken part throughout the year. For seeking out those different ingredients or finding new ways to cook old favourites, thank you for your continued inspiration. Thanks must also go to Kalyn for creating this wonderful event.

Weekend Herb Blogging has a one week break and resumes December 29th - there has been a change of hosts due to illness, so I will fill in for Maybelle's Mom, please keep her in your thoughts for a speedy recovery - you can find out the hosting details here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Brined Quail with Agresto Sauce

For this week only, Weekend Herb Blogging became Holiday Herb Blogging where we were asked for Holiday friendly recipes and I've turned to two classic herbs to fulfill this requirement.

parsley© by Haalo basil© by Haalo

Parsley and Basil which are the main ingredients for an Italian medieval sauce called Agresto.

Agresto sauce resembles a pesto - it is made from a mix of nuts and herbs that are bound with verjuice and olive oil. Verjuice is the name given to the unfermented pressings of unripe grapes. Highly popular in the Middle ages it fell out of favour but in recent times it has been revived. While there is a tart element to it, it isn't as acidic as vinegar. On the nose, it has a lovely fresh fruit aroma.

When it comes to Christmas, I'm always on the lookout for something different to do for a main course. Since there's only 3 of us for dinner, I want to avoid cooking anything too large - turkey is fairly impractical while chicken is a little too everyday.

This year I've turned to quail and in particular to this rather interesting recipe found in Shared Plates by Jared Ingersoll for a brined quail. Now if quail isn't your cup of tea, you can easily adapt the recipe for chicken or spatchcock, you'll just have to increase the brining time.

After brining, the quail are roasted and then tossed in the Agresto sauce - the sauce slackens somewhat with the warmth of the quail, bringing out those wonderful aromas of basil and bathing it in "finger-licking" goodness.

brined quail with agresto sauce© by Haalo

Brined Quail with Agresto Sauce

7 cups water
fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
140 grams salt
125 grams caster sugar
6 quail

Agresto Sauce:
125 grams almonds
125 grams walnuts
1 garlic clove
1 bunch Italian parsley, leaves picked
½ bunch Basil, leaves picked
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
⅓ cup verjuice
salt and pepper

Make the Agresto Sauce:

This sauce is enough for 1 chicken, 4 spatchcocks or 12 quail.

Finely chop the parsley and basil - you can do this by hand or with a food processor.

Place the almonds, walnuts and garlic into a process and pulse until finely chopped. Tip out into a bowl and add the chopped herbs along with the oil and verjuice. Stir to combine, taste and then adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. The end product should be a thick paste.

Store under a thin layer of olive oil in the fridge if not using immediately.

Make the brine:

Place the water into a pot and bring to the boil. Once boiling, add the thyme, bay leaf, salt and sugar - stir until the salt and sugar has dissolved.

As soon as they have been absorbed, remove from the heat and allow to cool completely. It's important that the brine is fridge cold before you use it.

Brine the Quail:

quail© by Haalo

Wash the quail well and make sure the cavities are empty. Place the quail in a tight fitting container and pour over with the cold brine. It's important that they are completely covered with brine. You might need to place a weight on them to ensure they stay covered.

Place them in the fridge for 3 - 4 hours - don't be tempted to leave them any longer.

Cook the quail:

Preheat the oven to 230°C/450°F.

Drain the quail from the brine and then wash them well in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and then rub over with olive oil.

Place them on a baking tray and cook for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove them the oven and rest them upside down for 10 minutes.

brined quail with agresto sauce© by Haalo

To serve:

Either toss the whole quail in the Agresto Sauce or as I've done here, cut each quail into four and toss the portions in the sauce.

While the brining gave the quail much more flavour the Agresto sauce really put it into the special category. The sweetness from the Verjuice is heightened, and combined with the nuts and herbs, it certainly had us wanting more.

Weekend Herb Blogging is now housed from this site and for further information on this event, please check out the following posts:

General Information
The Rules
Who's Hosting
Year Four Archives
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