Saturday, May 31, 2008

Challenge Books #11 & 12 - Ice Cream Sundae

Simple things are always the best. Yes, yes, it's a cliche. But it's true, nonetheless.

At least it is when it comes to this dessert. A scoop of dense creamy vanilla ice cream and super thick rich chocolate sauce topped with chopped nuts. That's it. Perfection!!!

I discovered this ice cream in Tessa Kiros's Falling Cloudberries a couple of years ago. Tessa says 'this is not one of those nouvelle vanilla ice creams - it is dense, rich and very country style'. I could not have put it better. There is nothing airy fairy about this ice cream.

I have been making it pretty much constantly ever since that day of discovery. It can always be found in my freezer.

But it never lasts very long.

Falling Cloudberries is Challenge Book #11 in the KJ Wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. This is where I have to make a recipe from every single cook book I own before I can buy any new ones. If I am a good girl, I can buy myself a new mixer.

Falling Cloudberries is a gorgeous book. I love the family stories she has entwined through the recipes. What an interesting life she has had.

A warning though, this ice cream contains raw eggs. Which is not for everyone.

Vanilla Ice Cream
(adapted from Falling Cloudberries)

4 egg yolks
1 tspn vanilla extract
300gm sweetened condensed milk
500 ml thick cream

Whisk together the yolks and the vanilla. Whisk in the condensed milk.

Whip the cream to soft peaks. Mix in the yolk mixture.

Refrigerate until cold. Churn in an ice cream maker.

The chocolate sauce recipe is from Challenge Book #12 - the Family Circle Classic Essential Chocolate. I have a whole stack of these little books. They are sold at supermarket checkouts, cost just a few dollars, in other words impossible to resist.

Chocolate Sauce
(adapted from Family Circle's Classic Essential Chocolate)

100gm dark chocolate, chopped
100gm unsalted butter
1/2 cup caster sugar
300ml cream
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Put the chopped chocolate in a bowl. Combine the butter, sugar, cream and cocoa powder in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer, stirring, for two minutes.

Strain the mixture over the chopped chocolate and leave for 2 minutes. Stir until melted and smooth.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - Opera Cake

Give me a D, give me an A, give me an ..... oh never mind. Yes, it's Daring Baker time again. Be prepared to be inundated by opera cakes. Don't fight it people. There's no escape. They're everywheeerreeee!!

When I saw this month's challenge I couldn't help but wonder just how many, if any, operas feature cake. Are there any arias devoted to pflaumenkuchen? An arietta in praise of madelines?

The computor says nooooooooo.

The closest I could get was a song called 'Opera Singer' by the band Cake. It goes a little something like this - I am an opera singer, I stand on painted tape, It tells me where I'm going, And where to throw my cake ... ooops.... cape. Eat your heart out Mozart!

So what about my opera cake? Well, first of all I had to choose the flavour. The stipulation from the hosts was that the cake must be light coloured. So I went for rose syrup and pistachio buttercream. I wish I had some deep and meaningful inspirational reason for choosing this. But no, it was the first thing that popped into my head and I just went with it. Sorry.

Now comes the making of. Well, it was quite a long and eventful experience.

First of the all the cake. It all went very smoothly, right up until I popped it in the oven. As I stood there patting myself on the back for a job well done, I spotted a little bowl of melted butter going all 'what about me' on the kitchen bench. Dooooh!!! I yanked the tin straight back out of the oven. Poured the batter back into a bowl. Mixed in the butter. Washed and relined the tin and shoved it all back into the oven. Crossed fingers and wished on a star. Amazingly, it came out again all risen and golden and spongy and cake like.

Next, the buttercream. I melted and beat and whipped. Runny goo. Delicious runny goo, but utterly useless. So I started from scratch and somehow, someway ended up with lovely, light fluffly buttercream. Don't ask me how. I was just along for the ride.

Followed by the white chocolate mousse. Clumpy curdled mess. Not delicious and equally as useless. This was no mystery. It was not a good idea to try to whisk the cream and melted chocolate together. Starting again, I mixed ever so gently and ended up with lovely light mousse.

I pushed my luck to the limit and went for the glaze. In a stunning upset, I actually managed this one first go. Haaa!

Pulled all together it looked like this.

And how did it taste. Well it was very nice. Everyone enjoyed it. But to be honest, it was not quite nice enough to justify the effort all over again. I am glad I tried it, but you can't win them all.

Thanks to this month's hosts Ivonne, Lis, Fran and Shea for a great challenge. Please visit the Daring Baker Blogroll to see what my fellow Daring Baker's have created. If you are interested in the recipe, you can find it here. If it's not there yet it soon will be.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Vanilla Custard Tarts

Stop the world, I want to get off. Life is rocketing along at a million miles an hour right now and I have had enough. ENOUGH. I do not like being busy and rushing around. I like dawdling about and pondering things. I am big on pondering.

As if the squillion things going on weren't enough, I rashly promised to bring a dessert to a lunch last weekend. I searched desparately for an easy option. I could have just bought a cake from a bakery or something, but home baking is just so much nicer. And I knew just how much it would be appreciated. And you know, I am so glad that I made the effort because otherwise I would never have discovered these - vanilla custard tarts.

Basically, they are little filo pastry cases filled with deliciously silky vanilla bean custard. My big idea was to serve them with some sliced tinned pears. Easy is as easy does. I was sure I had a tin of pears skulking about at the back of the pantry. But dragged into the daylight it turned out to be a tin of fruit cocktail. What the??? I have absolutely no recollection of ever buying fruit cocktail. I doubt I've eaten it since my last school camp. But good thing I did buy it for some reason at some point, because it went beautifully with the tarts. It was perfect.

I think these tarts are THE perfect lunch time dessert. They are lovely and light, just adding a delicious note of sweetness at the end of the meal. And oh so refined and elegant. I also think they would be absolutely perfect to serve alongside rose scented poached pears as a dinner dessert.

Admittedly, the tarts were not quite so quick and simple to make as I envisaged. The custard is straight forward enough. But forming the pastry cases in the muffin tins takes a bit of time and patience. I swear if filo pastry wasn't sooo temptingly delicious, I wouldn't touch the stuff with a bargepole. It breaks and tears and is generally a pain in the proverbial. But in this case, it redeemed itself. Totally worth it.

Vanilla Custard Tarts
(adapted from Donna Hay Magazine Sept/Oct 2006)

pastry cases

sheets of filo pastry
unsalted butter, melted
caster sugar


1 1/2 cups single cream
1 vanilla bean, split
3 egg yolks
2 tbspn (8 tspn) caster sugar*
1 tbspn cornflour
2 tbspn water

For the custard, heat the cream and vanilla bean. Do not allow to boil. Cover and leave to steep for 20 minutes. Reheat to just below boiling point and remove the vanilla bean.

Whisk the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk the cornflour and water together.

Slowly whisk the hot cream into the egg mixture. Add the cornflour mix and return to the saucepan. Return to a low heat and stir until the mix thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a spoon. Cover and refrigerate.

Brush the a sheet of the pastry with the melted butter. Sprinkle with sugar. Top with another layer of pastry. Brush with the butter and sprinkle with sugar. Add a final layer of pastry.

Cut the pastry into squares or circles and press into the lightly greased cups of a muffin tin. Trim the edges of the pastry.

Bake for 4-6 minutes or until lightly golden in a 180C oven. Allow to cool. To serve, spoon the custard into the pastry cases.

* This is an Australian recipe so 1 tbspn = 4 tspn. In the US 1 tbspn = 3 tspn.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Taste & Create - Mango & Cucumber Salad and Shopping

Here I am home again, with shopping. This is my Solomon Islands haul. A beautiful bowl carved from coconut and inlaid with shells. And some jewellery all carved from shells. The long strings are shell money, a traditional currency of exchange - used to pay for brides, land and pigs. I bought them at the local markets from some lovely women with the most amazing array of tattoos.

Unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to do much more during the day than work. In the evenings I did manage to get to some quite nice restaurants and see a traditional dance performance. Overall, I really enjoyed the trip.

Despite the cold blustery weather of Canberra, I have remained in a tropical frame of mind. So when I came to this month's Taste & Create challenge I chose this - mango and cucumber salad.

My partner for this month is Gay from A Scientist in the Kitchen. Her blog has lots of interestingly exotic recipes. I now have my beady little eyes on her papaya and coconut spring roll recipe.

This salad was very enjoyable. It was just so colourful, you couldn't help but be cheered by it. And I love adding fruit to salads. There's nothing like a lovely accent of sweetness to break up all those boring leaves and crunchy things.

The recipe can be found here. For those interested, the Taste and Create is hosted by Nicole over at For the Love of Food and details can be found here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Challenge Book #10 - Plum and Cinnamon Oat Slice

Hi everyone, I am going to be out of action for the next week or so, because I will be in the Solomon Islands. Unfortunately, I won't by lying on the stunning white palm fringed beaches, swimming in the crystal clear waters or diving the world class reefs and WWII shipwrecks. No, I will be sitting in an office wishing I was doing all of those things. Life can be cruel.

In the meantime, I will leave you with this piece of deliciousness - plum and cinnamon oat slice.

I actually made this a couple of months ago when it was the height of the plum season and my local farmer's market was literally bursting with sweet juicy plums. I went plum crazy.

What I loved about it was the way the slices of fresh plum turned into a thick flavourful plum jam. The oats give a wonderful chewy texture.

My version was a bit strong on the cinnamon, strictly as a result of my own clumsy carelessness. When will I ever learn not measure out spices over a bowl full of ingredients? Tipping up the spice jar, you always get either a few specks or a huge clump. You can guess which one this slice ended up with.

This recipe is from Delia Smith's How to Cook Book: Book 2. Along with Book 1, this is one of my most used cookbooks. I think I've made most of the recipes at some point or other. This is also Challenge Book #10 in my KJ wants a Kitchen Aid Challenge. This is where I have to make a recipe out of every cookbook I own before I buy any new ones. If I succeed, I can buy myself a new mixer. So far, so good.

Plum and Cinnamon Oat Slices
(adapted from Delia's How to Cook Book 2 by Delia Smith)

450gm of fresh plums
1 rounded tspn of cinnamon
275gm of plain wholemeal flour
150gm of porridge oats
1 tspn salt
225gm of butter
110gm of light brown sugar

Cut the plums in half and remove the stones. Cut plums into thin slices. Toss with the cinnamon and set aside.

Mix the flour, oats and salt together. Melt the butter and sugar together over a low heat. Mix into the flour and oat mix until you end up with a dough.

Press half the dough over the bottom of a lightly greased 25x15cm baking tin. Scatter the plums over the dough. Top with the remaining oat mixture.

Place tin in the centre of a 200C oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove and cool for 10 minutes. Cut into squares. Leave to cool completely in the tin.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Meme - Foodie Book Wisdom

The lovely Fiona over at The Cottage Smallholder has tagged me for a meme. This is a fun one.

The rules are:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Fiona has passed it on in the hope of keeping a foodie theme happening. I am happy to oblige. The nearest foodie books, were two old favourites sitting on my desk. They are my go to references for all kinds of foodie questions. I had pulled them out to look up cooking times for roast pork.

Surprisingly, the correct paragraphs in both books yielded something other than a list of ingredients or instructions to cream the butter and sugar and add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition.

Here they are.

Cook's Companion - Stephanie Alexander on basil

'Its most famous partnership is with a ripe tomato and extra virgin olive oil, although some might argue that pesto deserves that accolade. I have one Italian friend who tells me that he only ever eats his pesto the next season and that he makes bottles and leaves his pesto topped with a film of olive oil to mature. On the other hand, in Rome and other Italian towns where I have shopped, brilliant green, just-made pesto is on sale in every salumeria each day throughout the summer months.'

Delia's How to Cook Book Two - Delia Smith on cauliflower

'Then place them, along with the leaves, in a steamer, sitting them up vertically (ie stalk-side at the base and flower heads up). Now pop a bay leaf in, which has a fragrant affinity with cauliflower. I also add some salt, and I like to use another very English flavouring, nutmeg, which I grate lightly over the surface of the florets. Now pour in boiling water from the kettle and steam for 6-7 minutes, or until tender when tested with a skewer. Serve with a little butter or grated cheese , or in our modern variation of cauliflower cheese on page 135.'

So there you have it. I'm going to tag the following people whose blogs I enjoy:

Val - More Than Burnt Toast
Kelly-Jane - Cooking the Books
Dharm - Dad, Baker & Chef
Chriesi - Almond Corner
Anita - Married With Dinner

What have the photos here got to do with anything. Well, nothing actually. I took them at the Botanical Gardens a few weeks back and I really like them. I have been looking for an excuse to post them. I still don't have one, so I am just going to do it anyway.


Sunday, May 04, 2008

Bollywood Cooking - Rawa Idli and Coconut Chutney

I returned from my soujourn to India last year with many things. One of which was a love for Bollywood films (as I blogged here). So you can imagine my excitement when THIS came to a cinema near me.

I saw the shorts for it when I was in India and I was so sad I was going to miss it. So I tootled along to see it ASAP. It's an awesome action adventure flick staring from left to right - Anil Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor, Akshay Kumar and Saif Ali Khan. All huge Bollywood stars. It was FANTASTIC!! It was just like being back in India. It was just me and a few friends in a cinema full of Indian families. All laughing and just having a great time. How could you not love jetskis flying about in the middle of the desert and cycle rickshaws of death. You just can't help but have fun in Bollywood!!!

I just wanted to rush off and jump on a plane back to India. That being out of the question, the next best thing was to indulge in some delicious Indian food. As it happened, the theme chosen for this month's Monthly Mingle over at What's For Lunch Honey is Bollywood Cooking.

How about that!! It's like everything just came together as the perfect time to make my favourites - rawa idlis and coconut chutney. Although, I'm not sure how well this fits into the Mingle criteria of glitter and gloss. This is more like comfy home baking snack making. Oh well.

I learned these recipes in a cooking class I did with Kurma Dasa, a famous vegetarian chef here in Australia. As I understand it, this is a traditional Southern Indian dish. I make no claim for authenticity.

I love these dishes. Rawa idli breads are small steamed breads made with coarse semolina (top) and split urad dal (bottom).

This recipe adds mustard seeds and cashews. You can also add chopped chilies as well, if you like some heat.

They are made in special idli moulds that stack up into trees, as you can see in this photo. I bought mine in a local Indian grocery for $5.

You will end up with these. Once you've got all the necessary bits and pieces together, they really are easy to make. And oh so, so tasty.

One of the most important things is to grease the moulds well, otherwise you will end up with a bunch of stuck and broken idlis. They will still taste great, but won't look so pretty.

As for the coconut chutney, well it could not be easier. I use frozen fresh coconut that I buy in little packets from a local asian grocery. There's a little bit of frying. But really it's all about mixing. It's lovely and refreshing. So good!!

Here you have it the complete meal. I could sit and eat this all day!!!!!

Rawa Idli studded with Cashews
(adapted from Kurma Dasa)

2 tbspn split urad dal, soaked in warm water for 2 hours
2 tbspn cashews, chopped
1 1/2 tbspn black mustard seeds
1 tbspn ghee
1 1/4 cups coarse semolina
3/4 tspn baking powder
2 tspn salt
1 tspn baking soda
1 1/4 cups yoghurt
1/2 - 1 cup warm water
ghee to grease the moulds

Heat the ghee, add the mustard seeds and fry until they commence popping. Add the drained dal and cashews (and chopped chilies if you wish). Fry until the mixture darkens. Set aside.

Heavily grease the idli moulds. Add about 5cm of water to a tightly lidded saucepan and place over a high heat.

Combine the semolina, baking soda and salt and mix well.

Stir in the yoghurt. Add enough water to form a smooth batter than falls easily from the spoon, but is not too runny. Stir in the fried mixture.

Spoon the mixture into each compartment of the moulds.

Lift the idli tree inside, drape a tea towel over the top of the saucapan and replace the lid. Steam for 7-10 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.

Remove the tree and cool for 2 minutes. Use a spoon to scoop the idlis from their moulds. Place in a tea towel ensuring that the idlis do not touch (they are likely to stick). Eat while still hot with coconut chutney. They can be reheated in the microwave or by steaming.

Coconut Chutney
(adapted from Kurma Dasa)

1 1/2 cups shredded fresh, frozen or dried coconut
1 1/2 cups yoghurt
1/2 cups cold water
1 tbspn minced ginger
minced green chiles or crumbled dried chiles to taste
1/4 tspn freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tspn salt
1 tspn vegetable oil
1 tspn black mustard seeds
1 1/2 tspn split urad dal
10-12 curry leaves, fresh or dried
1/4 tspn yellow asafetida powder

Combine the coconut, yoghurt, water, ginger, chilies, pepper and salt.

Heat the oil. Drop in the mustard seeds and fry until they crackle. Add the urad dal and fry it until it turns golden. Toss in the curry leaves and stir until they soften.

Add the asafetida and then immediately remove from the heat. Mix the spices into the bowl of yoghurt and coconut.

Serve at room temperature. It can be kept refrigerated for up to 2 days.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

A Very Special Guest Meme

Hi, I am the newest member of Kitchen Chez KJ. When KJ told me that she was tagged for a meme by Fiona over at Cottage Smallholder I begged her to let me do it. You know as a way of introducing myself to the world. She said I could, so here goes.

What I was doing ten years ago

Oh you know, just hanging around underground as ore and stuff. Finally I got dug up and processed and here I am.

My to do-list today.

Well mornings are my busiest time. I’ll start off doing some slices of thick cut wholemeal flour loaf at around 8am-ish.

Then I've got a meeting of the Breakfast Cereals are Evil League. Toasters have come together to foil a massive conspiracy to weaken the human race. Greedy breakfast cereal manufacturers are using subliminal messaging to turn people away from physcially, socially and emotionally nurturing toasted bread products and toward the empty debilitating nothingness of corn flakes and coco pops. They must be stopped.

Then I’ll have a bit of a snooze until about 7pm-ish when I’ll be working on some ciabatta to go with soup for dinner. Then I’ll hang out and gossip with the jaffle iron until about 10pm-ish when I’ll knock up some fruit ‘n spice muffins for a late night supper.

Snacks I enjoy

Well naturally I enjoy all kinds of bread products, but my favourite has to be crumpets. Getting that crisp crunch just right and with the oozing butter and syrup, just yummy. Thanks to my dedicated setting I'm a bit of a crumpet expert, if I do say so myself.

Things I would do if I was a Billionaire

I would retire to a custom built kitchen by the sea and toast just for fun. You know the odd bap here and there. Maybe a bit of turkish bread every now and then just for kicks.

3 Bad Habits

I beep annoyingly at people if they don’t come and collect their toast asap. I’ve taken the time to toast it, the least they can do is eat it while it’s still hot.

Other than that I am a well functioning machine. I do not do idiosyncrasies.

5 placed I have lived

Various mines. Dull and dirty places. I was glad to get out of there.

The Breville toaster factory where I was born. My memory of those days is pretty hazy.

The wholesale wharehouse. It was fun hanging out with all the other toasters. We had some wild nights in that place. The stories I could tell.

David Jones small appliances section. It was hard work, you always had to be putting your best foot forward. Keep yourself shiny that kind of thing. The staff got testy if their sales figures weren’t up to scratch.

The cupboard under the sink. It’s a cool pad. The pasta machine and I are best buds. And there’s a very fit little magimix living in the far corner. We’ve been looking at each other significantly for a while now. I’m in with a chance there. So long as that moronic food mill doesn't keep pushing his way in. Idiot!!!

5 jobs I’ve had

Well it's just been domestic work so far. But I'm keen to go into showbiz. I've got the looks. But just as a sideline you know. Maybe a bit part in Neighbours or Home and Away. Those people are always hanging about in the kitchen. I could just be an extra sitting on the kitchen bench. Maybe getting the odd action shot in breakfast scenes - doing a bit of toast or muffins here and there. Who knows!!

So that’s me. KJ said not to tag anyone. Rather anyone who wants to join in feel free. Casting agents can contact me through KJ's email address.


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