There are days when the hours seem to slip by so quickly and stealthily and soon enough the sun’s setting and it’s time for dinner and oh my gosh, I haven’t prepared anything yet! Yes, yes – this is even when jobless me is at home all day fiddling around. You see, if I’m actually at work, I tend to plan ahead a lot more and usually I have something prepared, defrosted or planned for dinner.
Thank God for pasta. It has got to be one of the easiest and fastest meals to whip up…aside from baked beans on toast of course. Well, this linguini was done in 30 minutes tops, and only because the pasta took time to cook and the prawns needed to be defrosted in the microwave. It’s quick and delicious and pretty much a fail-proof, mid-week, when you’ve-forgotten-to-prep-for-dinner kinda meal.
Chilli Prawn Linguini
400g shelled, green prawns
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
handful of fresh basil leaves
400g tinned tomatoes
salt and pepper
Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water according to packet instructions
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan on medium. Cook prawns for 1-2 minutes, until they begin to change colour. Add in chilli and garlic. Cook for another minute before adding in tinned tomatoes, including all the juices. Season to taste and stir through basil leaves.
Drain cooked pasta, reserving half a cup of the cooking liquid. Toss the pasta through the sauce, adding in some of the cooking liquid to get a smooth, glossy coating of sauce throughout.
I’m wilting. It’s all UK’s fault. Living in the UK for the past four years has made me less tolerant to hot summer days. I’m talking about real, hot, Aussie summer days. I’m ashamed to say, summer’s only just started downunder and I’ve already started whining. Can’t imagine when the mercury hits forty degrees (celcius) and above! Help me!
To cool off, I’ve started with summer recipes, including this refreshing sorbet. I’ve got my eye on an adorable pink Cuisinart ice-cream maker but have not gotten around to purchasing it just yet. The good thing is this sorbet does not need fancy ice cream makers to churn it. All you need is a fork. Yup, let’s do this the old fashioned way.
I found some beautiful nashi pears at the market and they are usually delicious and juicy on their own, however my craving for coolness gave me the inspiration to use them for my first sorbet of the season. Unlike their creamy counterparts, this fruity sorbet is light and delicate and is a perfect dessert for a hot summer evening.
Nashi Pear and Honey Sorbet
Serves 2 – 4
2 Nashi (Asian) pears
1 tbsp honey
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Place a shallow dish for your sorbet in the freezer. This cools the dish and allows the sorbet to firm up faster.
Bring water and sugar to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the peeled and quartered pears to the syrup and simmer for another five minutes. Add honey and stir to dissolve halfway through.
Set the pears and syrup aside for five minutes before adding the lemon juice and zest. Set aside to cool.
Once cooled, blend the pears and syrup in a food processor to a smooth purée. Push the mixture through a course sieve into the dish which you placed in the freezer earlier. Return the dish and pear mixture into the freezer.
Use a fork to whisk the sorbet every 30 minutes. The sorbet should become fluffier and paler. Sorbet should be ready in approx 2-3 hours.
When the rest of the world prepare for winter and the Christmas holidays, I’m bracing myself for summer and my first summer Christmas after four blissful wintry ones. It feels weird. No more warm apple ciders or spicy gluhwein, instead of Starbucks Christmas cups filled with Gingerbread Latte, it’s Christmas blend frappes. BBQ and fresh salads take the place of roasted dinners and hearty stews. Stash away the woolly scarves, gloves and coats, bring on the sunblock, bikinis and flip flops. It’s a summer Christmas down under and yes it’s going to take some getting used to again, but I’ll cherish it all with open (and soon-to-be tanned) arms. I’ll miss my white Christmas, but I’m game for a change. Well at least for one year anyway.
Not the point of this post, which is really about a boy’s birthday cupcakes. Naturally, when I think of boys (actually men in their 30s in this case), I think of darker colours and flavours – perhaps dark chocolate, coffee, maybe a cheeky dash of alcohol…
I had none of that, and I wasn’t quite inspired that day to go the dark way. Blame the bright and beautiful summer days. So I opted for blue. Blueberries in this case – a simple, moist vanilla cake with juicy blueberries topped with a decadent cream cheese frosting.
Blueberry cupcakes – good for a boy, good for summery days.
Adapted to make 12
(original recipe yields 24 – 30, and quantity stated in brackets)
97.5 g cake flour (1 3/4 cups)
70 g plain flour(1 1/4 cups)
225 g sugar (2 cups)
1/2 tbsp baking powder (1 tbsp)
pinch of salt (3/4 tsp)
115 g butter, cut into cubes, room temp (1 cup)
2 eggs (4 eggs)
1/2 cup milk (1 cup)
1 tsp vanilla extract (2 tsp)
3/4 cup blueberries, plus 1 tbsp flour (1 1/2cups / 2 tbsp flour)
1. Preheat oven to 160 deg celcius. Line cupcake pans with paper liners and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment combine flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt; mix on low speed until combined. Add butter, mixing until just coated with flour.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and vanilla. With mixer on medium speed, add wet ingredients in 3 parts. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl before each addition. Beat the batter until ingredients are thoroughly combined, but do not overbeat.
4. In a medium bowl, gently toss the blueberries with 1 tablespoon of flour, then carefully fold the blueberries in the batter.
4. Use a large scoop to divide batter evenly among liners, filling about 2/3 full. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 – 24 minutes.
4. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Original quantity for 24 – 30 cupcakes stated in brackets
113 g cream cheese (8 oz)
57.5 g butter, softened to room temp (1 cup)
160g confectioners sugar sifted (2 pounds)
*Note: If I had halved the original recipe, I should have about 450g confectioners sugar but I think that is waaaayyyy too much, so I adapted it and only used 160 g.
1. In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together, cream cheese and butter until well combined.
2. With the mixer on low, gradually add the confectioners’ sugar until thoroughly incorporated and smooth.
I am such a slacker!!! Sorry folks, it just seems that leisure days are more difficult to manage than when I was working. Time between blog posts have been too far apart, and I apologise. It’s not that I haven’t been cooking…don’t worry, the hubs is well fed and watered. Procrastination and telly time have simply taken over my life for a bit. I’m back now so let’s move things along.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Jamie Oliver’s recipes. Right next to me is one of his latest cookbook – Jamie’s 30 minute meals. I enjoy watching the series and marvel at how easy and quickly he whips up those 30 minute meals. What they do not show on TV is the crew of people he has in the background prepping and cleaning after him…which makes the 30 minute meal into realistically a 45 to 60 minute meal. However there is no doubt he’s planned the dishes well and they are indeed easy to cook and absolutely delicious.
I bookmarked one of Jamie’s 30 minute meal dishes – Piri piri chicken – and was really keen to try and make my own piri piri sauce. Piri piri is actually a small, spicy member of the chilli pepper/capsicum family which some refer to as the African bird’s eye chilli. My very first experience of Piri piri is from the famous Portuguese style grilled chicken dish – juicy, spicy barbequed chicken that is constantly basted in the spicy piri piri sauce. Nando’s is a famous restaurant chain that serves up this chicken dish with your choice of mild, medium or hot sauce. I like mine hot. Mmmm…
Compared to the bottled sauces which is very much a generic tangy and spicy sauce, this homemade rustic version tasted of fresh ingredients like chillies, herbs and smoky paprika. I liked it a lot and would recommend your own tweaking to suit your tastes. I would add a little more vinegar or lemon juice and less of the paprika next time because my sour taste buds were craving for more tang. But that’s just me – I used to love those super sour candies called super lemon, where the best part of eating it was to see all your friends’ faces cringe from the sourness and I also enjoy eating the actual lemon slices that serves as a garnish in iced teas. So unless you’re like me, I’d say stick to the recipe and you’ll be right.
One word of warning if you do try this recipe – beware of the chilli and vinegar fumes if you decided to sniff in the perfume of freshly processed chilli sauce. I did that straight after blending the sauce and popping the cover of the liquidizer (food processor). Oooh boy…stay at least two nose lengths away from the processor. Trust me.
PIRI PIRI CHICKEN
Adapted from Jamie’s 30 minute meals
1 red onion
4 cloves of garlic
1-2 bird’s eye chillies
2 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
large bunch of basil
4 large chicken thighs, skin on bone in
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
8 baby potatoes, halved, unpeeled and parboiled for 6 minutes*
Pre heat oven to 200 deg C.
Peel and roughly chop red onion and add to the liquidizer with 4 peeled cloves of garlic. Add the chillies (stalks removed), paprika, zest of 2 lemons and juice of 1 lemon. Add white wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, a good pinch of salt and pepper, the bunch of basil and swig of water. Blitz until smooth.
Slash flesh side of the chicken thighs a few times, drizzle with olive oil and season. Brown chicken in a hot pan ( i used an ovenproof casserole pan) till golden on both sides. Remove chicken and set aside.
Slice the peppers into strips and add to the pan, char peppers for about five minutes. Set aside. Brown parboiled potatoes for another five minutes in the pan. Pour the piri piri sauce into the pan with the potatoes, then return chicken pieces and peppers to the sauce and scatter the sprigs of thyme on top.
Place pan into the oven and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
Serve straight from the oven with a side of salad and rice or crusty bread.
* Jamie’s original recipe did not have potatoes.
This one was created out of boredom. I’m what you may call a ‘lady of leisure’ nowadays except that shopping, afternoon teas, manicures and massages are not the order of the day. I’m not THAT kind of lady of leisure. Most of the time, I’m on the computer doing some freelance design work, looking for a job, watching TV, going to the gym and cooking. It’s become quite a routine actually and one that I’m kinda ready to give up (well, almost). I do have some activities I have yet to do – like museum visits, taking up a new sport, charity work etc. All talk for the moment, I might just get my butt off the couch and make them happen. Might.
So anyway, I felt like baking one day and had some of that wonderful fig jam from my trip to a berry farm recently, and I had one apple left in my crisper. I know my crisper sounds quite pathetic, it usually have several fresh veggies and fruit in it, but on this day that I decided to bake, the solo apple was it. Either that or it was half a head of cabbage…Hmm.
I browsed through some websites, looked through my cookbooks and decided that I’ll whip up a cake that used both the fig jam and apple. I also threw in some leftover walnuts that I had and the whole combination was actually quite delish.
The cake turned out moist, thanks to the shredded apple and sticky figgy bits from the jam. I didn’t add in too much sugar bearing in mind that the jam will already add sweetness.
If I do try this again, I might add little bit of cinnamon or maybe a handful of raisins to add another dimension to a subtle fruity cake.
FIG JAM AND APPLE LOAF
125g butter, softened
1/2 cup (100g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups (225g) self raising flour
1/2 cup (160g) fig jam
1 cup shredded apple (I used one medium apple)
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
25 g chopped walnuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a loaf tin.
Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until just combined.
Stir in flour, jam, apple, walnuts and milk in two batches. Spoon cake mixture into prepared loaf tin.
Bake in oven for about 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm and if you’re indulgent like me, serve warm with a little spread of salted butter. Guilty but yum!
I made a major boo boo in my last post by not stating that the oven temperature (and all future ones too!) is in Celcius and not Fahrenheit. My apologies to the fahrenheit folks out there who attempted to make the Oreo cupcakes and waited FOREVER for your cakes to cook in 180 F. Yikes. Major. Mistake. I promise never to do that again!! Ever!!
I have only ever used the metric system so I’m a major doofus when it comes to miles, fahrenheit, yards, foot, ounce etc etc. Conversions means math. And math and I aren’t good friends. I am forever grateful to Diana’s Desserts which has this handy conversion site specifically for baking, for without it, I would be in a complete conversion mess. There are countless conversion sites out there, but Diana’s site is bookmarked on my computer and it’s totally my handy helper in times of baking.
So anyway, as mentioned in my last post, I have a fail-proof Oreo cheesecake recipe which has been in my collection for many years and so here it is. I normally bake this in a slightly smaller springform pan (8″) which means there’s a thicker layer of cheesecake to indulge in. However since moving back to Australia, I only have one springform pan which is 9″ and so I ended up with a wider, thinner cheesecake. Not too big a problem as I only needed a couple more crushed oreos to add to the base. Everything else remained the same.
If you’re still a little Oreo crazy after all my talk of Oreos, you’d want to give this a try. It’s easy, delicious and looks darn impressive. I love that it is such a forgiving cake, it makes amateurs like me look good.
COOKIES AND CREAM CHEESCAKE
Make one 8″ cake
1 cup crushed oreos (approx 12 cookies)
1 tbsp melted butter
1 x 250g pack cream cheese, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
20 Oreos broken into small pieces
Mix crushed oreos with melted butter and press onto bottom of springform pan. Chill in the fridge while you prepare the other ingredients.
Preheat oven to 150C. Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs one at a time at low speed.
Remove chilled base from the fridge. Pour cheese mixture over the crust. Sprinkle broken oreo pieces over the top.
Bake in the oven for an hour or until the centre is almost set. If it’s a teeny bit jiggly, it’s okay as it will set further after it comes out of the oven. Cool before removing from the pan. Refridgerate for an hour or more before serving.
I’m a little obsessed with anything Oreos. I remember in the 90′s when cookies and cream was hip and happening. My greatest indulgence was cookies and cream thick shake. Large one please!
It seems the fad has died down in the last decade (oh my, I can quote decades means I’m old, yikes) but the infamous little chocolate sandwich of cookie and cream is far from passé. It’s very much alive and dear to our hearts and our flabby tummies can attest to that. In my collection is a never-fail, totally delish oreo cheesecake recipe that I’ve had for years. I’ll post that soon, as I made one recently and just haven’t come round to writing about it. But this is a newbie for me and it’s definitely staying in my collection – Oreo cupcakes. I made these for a friend’s birthday earlier this month and to date it’s my favourite cupcake recipe.
The cake part of the recipe is from a fellow food blogger – and for the life of me I can’t seem to remember who!! If you do know, please let me know and I’ll point it out to others. (Sheesh this is becoming habit – note to self – I have to make a point to remember which blog recipes are from!) But this is one of the best cookies and cream cupcakes I’ve had. Chunks of cookies and a super moist chocolate cake – heaven! Literally, break up a regular size Oreo into cup cake liners as seen below, and pour in a surprisingly runny chocolate cake batter.
See how runny the batter is? Yeah, don’t freak out. It makes the best chocolate cake base.
The frosting is made from whipped cream which is one of my favourite because it reminds me of the cookies and cream thick shake I used to indulge in. It is one of the simplest frostings to make but oh-so-lickably-yummy. I stood there for the longest time licking the bowl clean after I was done frosting the cupcakes. There was quite a bit leftover, and I ate it all! So, so good and so, so bad for me.
I managed to find the mini Oreos to top the cupcakes, but if you don’t have that, just use a regular sized Oreo and break it in half. Or even whole, if you prefer an equal cookie to cake ratio. My cupcake’s quite small, so the mini ones worked well.
Makes about 18 cupcakes
- 1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 Cup natural unsweetened cocoa
- 1 1/4 Cup sugar
- 3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 Teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 Teaspoon salt
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 Cup vegetable oil
- 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 Cup milk
- 3/4 Cup hot water
- 18 Oreos plus 6 more for crumbs
- small snack size box of mini oreos
Preheat the oven to 180C degrees. Line tray with baking cups.
Break Oreos into smaller pieces and disperse evenly in the bottom of each cupcake liner.
Mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl using a whisk. Then add the eggs, oil, vanilla, milk, and mix well until throughly incorporated. At this point, the batter looks normal and thick.
Then add the hot water and mix until is it combined. Now the mixture should be a much thinner liquid. (See photo above) Transfer batter into a large measuring cup and fill each cupcake cup about 3/4 full. Bake for 16-18 minutes. Repeat the baking process for any remaining batter.
- 1 3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. whipping cream
- 3 tbsp. powdered sugar
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 6 tbsp. Oreo cookie crumbs
In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium-high speed until the whipped cream holds stiff peaks. Gently fold in the cookie crumbs with a spatula.
Atrocious. I have been away for too long! Went away last week to Sydney with the hubs. He was there for work, while I played tourist. It’s great to be funemployed for a while. I’m still enjoying the break. Usually by this time, I’ll be itching to go back to work, but not right now! Loving spring in Melbourne, loving the time I have to potter around. I’m sure I’ll get bored of this soon enough.
I also planted my first crop of herbs in two galvanised buckets. They started of as seedlings and are flourishing under my care *ahem* It’s quite a surprise really, because I’m not known for my green thumbs. Let’s hope they continue to grow and be consumed throughout the summer months!
I can see more parsley and dill recipes coming this way. For now, I do have a fabulous chimichurri recipe to share. I couldn’t use all of my homegrown parsley as they were still busy growing…so I supplemented with a store bought bunch. I have a chimichurri recipe that I used while in the UK but I think this one’s the one I’ll be using from now. It’s simple, fresh and delicious.
Chimichurri is basically a green sauce originating from Argentina. It is made mostly from parsley and is totally delicious as a marinade or served with grilled meat. I had a couple of grilled thick, juicy steaks recently and served them with this. The combination of herbs, garlic and vinegar lifted the already juicy and delicious grilled steaks and brought them to a whole new level of yum. The Argentinians sure knew what they were doing.
If you haven’t had chimichurri before, you HAVE to try this.
Enough for 2 – 4 steaks
- 1 cup firmly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, trimmed of thick stems
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 2 Tbsps fresh oregano leaves (can sub 2 teaspoons dried oregano)
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl.
2 Stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings.
Serve immediately or refrigerate. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Can keep for a day or two.
Need to go to the gym more to make up for baking a little too much these few weeks. I believe it’s a phase I’m going through, a phase the hubby very much appreciates I’m sure.
To make space in my freezer for freshly bought produce I got from the market, I thought I’d use up some of my frozen blueberries. I found this recipe a while back but don’t remember where from. All I remember was that it was supposed to be a coffee cake – you know, the kind with no coffee and lots of sugary streusel on top? I decided not to go with the streusel topping and just baked the cake on its own.
Turns out, you don’t need the extra sugary topping at all. I love streusel coffee cake, trust me. Made a huge one before and ate it all! However I feel that this cake was good on its own. Don’t overbake the cake and you’ll get this delightful creamy cake that is not overly sweet. It looks deceivingly dense, but it was light and crumbly. Good with a big mug of tea!
Right, here’s the recipe. I’m off to the gym! Gah!!!
BLUEBERRY SOUR CREAM CAKE
225g cup butter, softened
225g castor sugar
60g brown sugar
200ml sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
190g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cups blueberries (optional – dust berries with 1 tbsp flour)
Preheat oven to 190 C. Butter and flour a springform tin. With a mixer, cream the softened butter and two sugars. Then add the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. In a separate small bowl, fold the vanilla into the sour cream. Then fold the sour cream mixture into the bowl with the cake batter.
In a separate larger bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Pour this mixture into cake batter bowl with mixer on low to medium. Then fold in blueberries.Bake for 50 minutes to an hour or until the middle of the cake springs back when touched.
Peaky batch. After making macarons a number of times, it’s still pretty hit or miss with these little diva shells. I got the beautiful peaky shiny meringue. I got the ‘magma’ flowing mix with the almond meal. I piped, tapped the trays and waited. Yet there were still stubborn peaks on the macaron shells. I’m thinking my magma wasn’t quite flowing right.
One thing about macarons. Whether they are smooth and pretty or not so pretty slightly deformed mounds – they all taste the same. Good same. Yummy same.
On a recent trip home from a snow weekend, we stopped by a berry farm. I know fresh berries aren’t in season during winter, but the farm was open, and there were berry products which we could taste! Free tastings are always good right? There were berry jams, berry wines, syrup, sauce – all things berrilicious. I left with a wonderful jar of chunky and sticky fig jam and a smooth and shiny apple and elderberry jelly.
This is the first time I’ve filled macs with ganache and am really glad to say they’re a perfect fit. I used the apple and elderberry jelly to flavour the white chocolate ganache and the subtle fruity flavours came through just enough. Could have done with a bit more of a fruity hit but I didn’t want to add on more jelly as the sugar high from one of these mamas would have been ridiculous!
Summer’s on the way (read BERRIES galore!!), so next time I’ll add fresh berries to the ganache instead.
In the meantime, here’s the recipe. I’m off to enjoy another round of Glee marathon before I break into Season 3. Yes, I’m a Gleek!
200g almond meal
200g confectioners’ sugar
150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
Line baking trays with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
Process almond meal with confectioners’ sugar in a food processor. Sieve out any large bits of almond.
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until all the sugar is dissolved.
Meanwhile, place 75g of egg whites in a mixer bowl with the whisk attachment.
Continue cooking until the sugar syrup reaches 118 C. While the sugar is cooking, begin whisking the egg whites. They should reach stiff peaks by the time the syrup is at 118 C. If it whips too fast, turn down or turn off the mixer.
Turn the mixer speed to low. Carefully pour the sugar syrup in a slow stream into the mixer.
Turn the mixer speed to high and let the meringue whip for several minutes until it has cooled and appears glossy and firm.
In a large bowl, combine the almond meal mixture with the remaining 75g of egg whites until partially combined.
Scoop the meringue on top of the almond meal mixture. Using a spatula or dough scraper, carefully fold the meringue in, trying not to deflate it.
The final batter should be thick and flow slowly like magma. Do not overmix.
Pipe 1 ½” rounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheets. Let the sheets sit for about 20 minutes to let the shells harden.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 160 C.
Bake one set of macarons for 12-14 minutes, rotating once.
Let tray cool for a few minutes before removing from the silicone mat. Let finish cooling on wire racks.
APPLE & ELDERBERRY WHITE CHOC GANACHE
50ml pouring cream
100g white chocolate
5 tbps apple and elderberry jelly
Bring cream just to the boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat, add chocolate, stand until melted (5 minutes), stir until smooth and glossy. Refrigerate until firm yet still pliable (45 minutes-1 hour) then stir until smooth. Add jelly, stir till fully combined.
It’s my last week at my current job (woo hoo!) and a huge part of me is looking forward to lounging around, cooking, baking, more lounging, watching TV, more lounging around, eating and sleeping next week. I don’t expect to be hired again straight off the bat, so a little me time is in store. Yay! I have a number of things planned for me time. Baking – yes. TV watching – yes. Curb my impulsive Scoopon, Groupon purchases – yes, yes, yes! Between hubby and I, we have purchased five things via scoopon and groupon in the last month. It’s getting out of hand! Help me!
One of the scoopon deals is a 3-hour cupcake workshop – I’ll be sure to keep you updated on that. I’ve made cupcakes many times before but a proper class might be loads of fun! Can’t. Wait.
Today’s post is still on sweet bakes, but not the cake or frosting kind. Hong Kong style egg tarts. I’m not a big fan of egg custard tarts. I do enjoy one at the occasional yum cha lunches (dim sum for some of you) and once in a blue moon, I may just buy one from a chinese bakery. However I promised the hubs that I will bake him some egg tarts (about 3 weeks ago) and I finally fulfilled that promise. Egg tarts come in two different forms. One has a shortcrust butter pastry base and the other a more flaky puff pastry base. I don’t mind either – I’ve had really good versions of both before and I’ve had really bad versions as well.
I came across this post where a fellow blogger, Christine from Hong Kong had special requests to translate her Chinese recipes into English. That to me is a sign that the recipe must be a good one. And I’m glad she translated her recipe so I could give it a try. And I did. And it was good. Real good.
This is a shortcrust pastry style tart. A good egg tart to me has a buttery, slightly crumbly but firm tart base with a soft, just-set custard that is not too sweet or dense. If you over bake these tarts, it might be rock hard and yucky. If you under bake it, the insides including the custard may be too runny or not set properly. Christine had wonderful tips on how to bake the tarts to perfection. (I’ve included her tips below – if you do make them, follow the instructions!)
The tarts turned out beautifully. Buttery shortcrust pastry with just the right amount of crumble. The custard was perfect – not too sweet, just firm enough to hold its shape but still jelly-like, soft and creamy. I loved the taste so much, I broke my single egg tart consumption history and had two of them at one sitting! These tarts are best eaten freshly cooled from the oven. The twenty minute wait (for the tarts to cool) I made the hubby endure was quite torturous but he promptly inhaled the tarts soon after. Not a crumb left.
Thanks Christine for the recipe! And for adding to the inches on both of our waistlines.
HK STYLE EGG TARTS
Recipe from Christine’s Recipes
For the crust:
- 225 gm plain flour
- 125 gm butter
- 55 gm icing sugar
- 1 egg, whisked
- a dash of vanilla extract
Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer over medium speed until the mixture is smooth, fluffy and light in color. Add in whisked egg, half at a time, beat over low speed. Add vanilla extract, mix well.
Sift in flour in two batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions with a spatula, and make sure all ingredients combine well. Knead into a soft dough.
Roll out the dough to a 1/2 cm thickness. Cut dough with a cookie cutter that is just a bit smaller than your tart tin in size. Line dough in the middle of tart tins. Lightly press the dough with your thumbs, starting from the bottom then up to the sides. While pressing the dough, turn the tart tin clockwise/anti-clockwise in order to make an even tart shell. Trim away any excess dough.
For the custard:
- 3 eggs
- 110 gm caster sugar
- 225 gm hot water
- 85 gm evaporated milk
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Add sugar into hot water, mix until completely dissolved. Whisk egg with evaporated milk. Pour in sugar water. Mix well. Sift egg mixture to get rid of any foam. Carefully pour egg mixture into each tart shell.
Baking the tarts:
Preheat oven to 200C. Position rack in lower third of oven. Bake tarts for 10 to 15 minutes until the edges are lightly brown.
Lower the heat to 180C. Keep an eye on them. Once you see the custard being puffed up a bit, pull the oven door open about 2 to 3 inches. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes until the custard is cooked through. Just insert a toothpick into the custard. If it stands on its own, it’s done.
Extra baking tips:
- Placing tarts on the lower rack in the oven cooks the crusts easily and prevents the custard from heating up too quickly.
- At the very last stage, pull the oven door open a few inches. This is to avoid the custard from being puffed up too high. The custard will collapse once they are cooled down and you want to prevent this from happening.
- To check if the custard is set, stick a toothpick in the custard when it’s almost ready and if the toothpick stands on its own, the custard is set. The custard may still look a bit on the soft side, but if the toothpick stands, it’s good! Trust the toothpick!
Some people are able to run their lives like well-oiled machines – stable, unchanging. Some people rock it with crazy happenings everyday and live by the motto of “go get ‘em or else”…For me, I feel like I’m just unsettled – not simple, not rocking it either. Probably due to the fact that we moved to a whole different continent about 4 months ago. Although it’s back to where we call home, the feeling like we haven’t quite completed our journey is still hovering around.
Hubby and I are super blessed to have found an apartment to rent really quickly, we found jobs speedily too and we’re back into life as we once knew. Well…not quite. I’ve resigned from my brand new job – yes after just 2.5 months of action. It just wasn’t what I expected. It just wasn’t something I could see myself doing for the next few years. I had to leave. I’ve never ever done this in my life – probation period definitely holds new meaning for me now! So yeah, it’s back to square one.
Plus I just read an update from an acquaintance’s blog of their thoughts from a recent miscarriage. Made me super sad, which explains why I’m so melancholic at the mo. Sorry!!!
However, having said all that, I know I should be thankful – for all of God’s amazing blessings in my life. Especially for my hubby who is ever so gracious and supportive – I could quit a thousand jobs and he’ll still be okay with it. Thank you hunny! You’re the best! It’s now written for the world to see, so you can’t take it back !!! I love you!
I am also thankful that simple, pleasurable things do exist. Like this baked swordfish dish I made a while back, and the fact that tomorrow will be the first day of spring. Yippee!
EASY BAKED SWORDFISH WITH HERBS
Adapted from cuisine.com.au
- 4 medium sized swordfish steaks (about half an inch thick)
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 ripe tomatoes, halved, juice and seeds removed, and chopped
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- 1 tsp thyme leaves
- 1 tsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
- Splash of white wine
- Juice of half a lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 180C.
Season fish with salt and pepper and place in an ovenproof dish. Combine the tomatoes, herbs and garlic in a bowl, then sprinkle over the fish. Add the white wine, lemon juice and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until just cooked through.
Hubby went away recently to the US for business and usually he comes home craving for home cooked chinese stir fries, comfort food like curries and rice…but this time round, his biggest craving was for red velvet cupcakes. Very strange considering he was in the States where there would have been an abundance of them, no?
Anyway, I’m not going to harp on about how I went about making these cupcakes. Recipes are EVERYWHERE but all I can say is, the amount of food colouring that goes in these cakes scare me a little. Originally, the red colour from the cake batter was due to a chemical reaction from the chocolate that was used and the acid from buttermilk. That would have been interesting to watch! I know some people opt out of those tiny bottles or tubes of artificial food colouring and use natural products like beetroot. I’m not THAT health conscious – you gotta be kidding! Easy options are usually the best for me. I admit I’m quite a slacker cook. Chemically coloured cake? Why not!?
The classic combination of red velvet cupcakes and cream cheese frosting was a crowd (well, just hubby actually) pleaser and they were very well received.
I do apologise for the shifty photographs. The lighting was all wrong and I just couldn’t be bothered changing it. I’m so glad the days are getting longer…which means I have more natural light! Can’t. Wait.
This recipe was easy to follow and the cake turned out to be quite delish. However I’m waiting to get my hands on the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and then I’ll try their famous cake recipes. Book Depository here I come!
RED VELVET CUPCAKE with cream cheese frosting
from Joy of Baking
1 1/4 cups (125 grams) sifted cake flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons (10 grams) regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cups (150 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk
1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (60 grams) confectioners’ (icing or powdered) sugar, sifted
2/3 cup (160 ml) cold heavy whipping cream (double cream) (35-40% butterfat)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and line 12 muffin tins with paper cupcake liners.
In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until soft (about 1-2 minutes). Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
In a measuring cup whisk the buttermilk with the red food coloring. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the butter mixture, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow the mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter.
Working quickly, divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 18 - 23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcakes comes out clean.
Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes and them remove from pan. Let cool completely before frosting. Either spread the frosting with a knife or offset spatula, or use a large 1MWiltonopen star decorating tip to pipe the frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting: In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. Using the whisk attachment, gradually add the heavy cream and whip until the frosting is thick enough to pipe. Add more sugar or cream as needed to get the right consistency.
Makes 12 cupcakes.
My last installment for the 365 Challenge. This time, it’s Stephane Reynauld’s recipe for Mozzarella Tart. This is a very easy recipe to follow – and it is similar to many tomato and mozzarella tarts. However Reynauld’s recipe called for rosemary and tarragon, which is unique as many other recipes use basil. I guess this is significantly more ‘french’ as basil, tomato and mozzarella is known to be an italian combination.
The recipe also says that medium grain semolina is used to scatter on the pastry before layering the tomatoes. This is so the semolina will absorb the juice of the tomatoes and thus prevent the pastry from becoming soggy. Unfortunately, I do not have semolina ready in my pantry and wasn’t about to buy a bag just to use two tablespoons of it. So I went onto trusty google to seek out a solution.
Many other recipes recommended baking the pastry for a bit first before adding the tomatoes. This works for me – so I pierced the pastry with a fork (to prevent it from rising too much), brushed it with egg wash, sprinkled some grated parmesan (I just can’t help myself!) and baked the pastry for about 5 minutes. This allowed the pastry to pre-cook for a bit. Once removed from the oven and cooled a little, I layered the tomatoes, cheese and herbs according to the recipe.
Instead of one large tart, I made baby versions of it, using two sheets of ready-rolled puff pastry and splitting into four squares. Very easy, very delicious. It kinda turned out to be posh herby versions of an open faced grilled cheese and tomato croissant. Yum.
Original recipe serves 6
150g mozzarella cheese
6 garlic cloves
2 tbsp medium-grain semolina
200g butter puff pastry
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked
fleur de sel
1 bunch tarragon, leaves picked
Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
Slice tomatoes into 5mm slices, do the same with mozzarella. Peel and slice garlic cloves. Roll out pastry and scatter semolina over.
Arrange tomatoes over pastry so they overlap, then add garlic, rosemary and mozzarella. Season, scatter tarragon and drizzle with olive oil.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes.
My hubby says that all Singaporeans have an obsession with pepper. He had noticed this to be true at a dinner with my family back in Singapore when we were there in May this year. We were all enjoying a delicious dinner at a famous chinese (hokkien cuisine) restaurant called Beng Hiang and they had amazing fish maw soup. Being the ‘outsider’ looking in, he noticed that every single one of us at the table were dumping generous amounts of pepper in our soup, along with lashings of red vinegar. All except him. And now he just makes sweeping statements about Singaporeans and pepper. But I do think it’s just me, well…and maybe my family.
When it comes to a dish that is the epitome of pepperiness (is there such a word?) there is none other than Black Pepper Prawns. This popular Singapore seafood dish (usually cooked with crab) is second to the more famous chilli crab. Colonel Sanders thought only his chicken is finger lickin’ good? Nah-ah! Get your fingers dirty and enjoy the addictive dark brown pepper sauce that coats the prawns. The natural sweetness of the prawns along with the spicy and salty sauce is a killer combination. It’s a really simple sauce too which was a surprise when I was looking for a recipe to follow.
It’s great as a dish served with rice and a side of stir fried veggies, or as finger food to go with beer or wine. I cooked this while non-pepper fan hubby was away and ate it on its own washed down with a glass of pinot gris. Ahhh…the things I get up to when the hubs is away.
Not the healthiest dish but life is too short. Just eat.
BLACK PEPPER PRAWNS
Adapted from GroupRecipes
10-12 large prawns, shells on
A knob of butter
1/2 tbsp of ginger, grated
1/2 tbsp of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
a splash of chinese cooking wine
a splash of light soy sauce
1 tbsp black peppercorns, cracked / crushed
In a hot work, heat up some cooking oil and stir fry the prawns until just cooked.
Drain the oil, and in the same wok, add the butter, ginger and garlic. Fry till slightly brown and fragrant. Add the sauces, wine and peppercorns and mix well. Return the cooked prawns to the wok and stir to coat the prawns.
Cover the work for about a minute to let the prawns and sauce infuse. All done! Serve, eat and lick those fingers clean.
It’s strange how one’s taste preference changes and develops over the years. There just may be hope yet for my relationship with mint. I’m not holding my breath on that one though. However fennel is a whole different story. I never used to like fennel because I never liked liquorice and anything aniseedy. I have changed. I do not mind raspberry liquorice (okay maybe that doesn’t quite count, but the original black liquorice is a little too hard core for me at this stage), I definitely like using star anise in my cooking. Absinthe I will drink but only if it’s disguised with something else, preferably sweet. But fennel – me likey. And this is one of my favourite fennel dishes.
It’s one of those dishes that is so simple to prepare, doubts will start to loom…and you think it may turn out to be a disaster. Trust me, this one’s a winner.
The fennel’s naturally sweet flavour melds beautifully with the parmesan and you get these tender roasted fennel that is tastily encrusted with melted cheese. So yum. It certainly isn’t a pretty dish, but it’s pretty delish I’d say!
Here’s the full recipe. Enjoy!
ROASTED FENNEL WITH PARMESAN
Adapted from foodnetwork.com
1 tablespoons olive oil
2 fennel bulbs, cut horizontally into 1/3-inch thick slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
Lightly oil the bottom of an oven safe dish. Arrange the fennel in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then with the Parmesan. Drizzle with the oil. Bake until the fennel is fork-tender and the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes.
Here’s my second instalment of the 365 Challenge. Prawn curry’s on the menu. I’ve cooked prawn curry before but they were mostly southeast asian style – mostly with a slight tang from assam (tamarind), or more of a sweet chilli prawn rather than an actual curry.
The ingredients from this recipe is pretty stock standard. Aromatics – check. Spices – check. Coconut milk – check. White wine – check. Wait a minute! White wine????? Right, I guess this is where the French influence comes in. This is the first time I’ve used white wine to cook a curry. Totally out of my curry comfort zone, but I did it anyway as I wanted to stay as close to the recipe as possible. The only thing I didn’t have was the tandoori paste. In place of that, I used a thai red curry paste which worked just as well. And I used parsley instead of coriander.
I also adjusted the portion size. 18 prawns was just a bit much for a dinner for one. Hubby was away when I cooked this. I reduced portions to a third. Six prawns makes for a good meal. Served with crusty bread or rice.
There was nothing mind-blowing about this recipe, but it is a decent curry. Spicy (watch out for that birds’ eye chilli!), fragrant (love the touch of lemongrass), sweet (especially if you leave the heads and shell of the prawns on). To me, the white wine was probably better poured in my glass as an accompaniment to the meal and not cooked in the curry.
Another simple to follow, pretty fool-proof recipe and good for those who prefer a lighter curry rather than the richer, more robust asian style versions.
Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Reasons to Sit Down to Eat
4 garlic cloves
50g fresh ginger
4 french shallots
1 red capsicum
1 lemongrass stem
1 red birds’ eye chili
1 tsp tandoori paste
1 tsp curry powder
100ml olive oil
18 large prawns
250ml white wine
salt & pepper
200ml coconut milk
6 sprigs coriander, leaves only
Peel and slice garlic, ginger and shallots. Cut eggplant into large cubes and the capsicum into small cubes. Thinly slice the lemongrass and chilli. Saute the spices and curry powder in olive oil with the veggies for 10 minutes. Add the prawns, cook for 5 minutes, moisten with the wine, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Season, then add the coconut milk and coriander leaves.
I’m intrigued by the Japanese. They have the most advanced technologies, they are forward thinking in so many ways, they have the most amazing sense of packaging (and design), their sense of honour, family and culture is extremely strong, and in light of the recent tsunami disasters – they are the most resilient and united people in the world!
I would love to visit Japan one day soon. Now that we’re back on this side of the globe, that dream is so much more possible. It is still an expensive place to visit, but it’s on the list. We’re working on it. For now, the closest Japanese experience for me is food. Sushi, sashimi, ramen, udon, teriyaki, tempura, teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, matcha ice-cream and I could go on and on….
I haven’t tried many Japanese recipes to date, something I should rectify. I’ll get onto that – starting with this recipe. It’s nothing new to many people who love baking. Japanese cheesecake, unlike its Western counterpart is crustless, soft and fluffy, light on the sugar factor and very dangerous.
It’s dangerous because it’s so easy to forget that you’re eating a cheesecake. This cotton soft wonder is so light that you could eat the entire cake and not feel a thing. Takes a lot of self control!
It’s fun to bake – however this time round my cake puffed up a lot during baking and when it cooled, it shrank back and caused the top to go all wrinkly. It’s still soft and doesn’t affect the taste at all, but it’s just not as pretty. I like pretty. Let’s hope I get yummy AND pretty next time.
140g fine granulated sugar
6 egg whites
6 egg yolks
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
250g cream cheese
100 ml fresh milk
1 tbsp lemon juice
60g cake flour
20g cornflour (cornstarch)
1/4 tsp salt
1. Melt cream cheese, butter and milk over a double boiler. Cool the mixture. Fold in the flour, the cornflour, egg yolks, lemon juice and mix well.
2. Whisk egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Add in the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form.
3. Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and mix well. Pour into a 8-inch round cake pan (Lightly grease and line the bottom and sides of the pan with greaseproof baking paper or parchment paper).
4. Bake cheesecake in a water bath for 1 hours 10 minutes or until set and golden brown at 160 degrees C.
So, I’ve joined the workforce again. This was my first week at work and boy am I not used to working so hard for so many hours in a day! The couple of months off has ruined me! But it certainly is nice to be bringing home some bacon. I love pay days!
Brownies. Let me just say this - I’m not a big fan. As many of you would know, I’m not a chocolate lover, so when it comes to cake or baked goods, I usually lean towards the citrusy ones. However, I was bored at home (while job hunting) and thought I’d bake a batch of chewy chocolately pecan brownies. Jamie Oliver’s recipes have never failed me so I went ahead to recreate his bloomin’ brilliant brownies. Be warned. If you’re after a crumblier cakey version, then skip this.
These brownies were uber chocolatey (think 70% cocoa) and they were chewy and gooey. I loved them fresh from the oven, and I would recommend warming it for 10 sec in the microwave if it’s been a day or two old, and serve it with creamy vanillia ice cream. It’s rich and totally sinful. Moment on the lips, lifetime on the hips. But for something so divine…I’d take the hips, thanks!
Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Bloomin’ Brilliant Brownies
250g unsalted butter
200g dark Fairtrade chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken up
50g chopped pecans
80g cocoa powder, sifted
65g plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder
360g caster sugar
4 large free-range or organic eggs
Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a 25cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. In a large bowl over some simmering water, melt the butter and the chocolate and mix until smooth. Add the nuts, if you’re using them, and stir together. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and sugar, then add this to the chocolate and nut mixture. Stir together well. Beat the eggs and mix in until you have a silky consistency.
Pour your brownie mix into the baking tray, and place in the oven for around 25 minutes. You don’t want to overcook them so, unlike cakes, you don’t want a skewer to come out all clean. The brownies should be slightly springy on the outside but still gooey in the middle.
My wonderful man and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary last month. Having just settled back in Oz, with our stuff still in transit, with my future in the working world still in limbo and with our savings dwindling a little – we thought a quiet little home-made celebration was in order.
There’s nothing better or more satisfying than to cook the hubby a meal that he craves for. Thanks to a programme on SBS called Flavours of Singapore, we were both gawking longingly at a recent episode featuring Singapore Chilli Crab and that gave me the idea to cook the dish for our anniversary dinner.
The challenge was getting mud crabs from the market. This dish works best with big, fat and juicy mud crabs, but they are not as common as Blue Swimmer Crabs and as expected, I could not find any. So these would have to do.
Fortunately, the blue swimmer crabs were of good size and beautifully blue. Look at those colours!
Cleaning crabs is not as daunting a task as you may imagine. It was tricky having hands full of crabby bits and taking photos, so I don’t have step by step ones to show you. I’m sure there’s a youtube video somewhere out there that you can follow.
I love watching the crabs change colours as they cook. They turn into a gorgeous shade of vermillion and not to forget – the amazing aroma!
After trying out a few recipes, I find this one to be most authentic. The key to good chilli crab is in the sauce. The sweet, slightly spicy sauce lightly laced with egg chiffon is what makes the mess from eating crabs worth its while.
The plus point of eating at home meant we could do away with table manners and niceties and lick, slurp, smack our lips and fingers all we wanted without a care. It doesn’t make for a very romantic anniversary meal, but we totally loved it.
Happy Anniversary babe. Thanks for being my best friend, lover and partner. Maybe chilli crabs could be an anniversary tradition from now on eh?
SINGAPORE CHILLI CRABS
adapted from Almost Bourdain
3 medium swimmer crabs, cleaned and quartered (two mud crabs would have been better!)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp chopped ginger
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 chilli, seed removed and finely chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
5 tbsp tomato ketchup (don’t diss it, it’s an essential ingredient!)
4 tbsp Sweet Chilli Sauce (I used Thai sweet chilli sauce)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp sugar
3/4 cup water
2 tsp cornflour
parsley or spring onions for garnishing
- In a very hot wok, add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil and fry the crabs until they have turned orange, about 8 – 10 minutes. Remove from wok and set aside.
- Add a little more oil to the wok if necessary and fry garlic, ginger, chilli and onion until fragrant.
- Mix tomato ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, water, lime juice and corn flour in a bowl.
- Add the sauce mixture to the wok, along with the crabs, cover and bring it to a boil. Feel free to adjust the seasoning by adding more ketchup, chilli sauce or lime juice, according to your preference.
- Drizzle the lightly beaten egg into the sauce. Stir through.
- Garnish with parsley or spring onion and serve with fried mantou (chinese steamed buns) or rice. The buns are handy for mopping up every last bit of that yummy sauce.
The team at Murdoch Books came up with this excellent idea to cook the entire list of recipes in ’Stephane Reynaud’s 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat’. I found out about this challenge in April when I packed up the last of my kitchen appliances into the multitude of boxes which were destined for a long, arduous journey back home to Melbourne. I took the risk and went ahead to join the challenge in good faith that I would have found a home and got my kitchen appliances back. That was in April. I’ve found a perfect apartment, but guess what? The boxes with my kitchen treasures have only just arrived last Friday and with the weekend unpacking, I’m so glad I picked a simple sounding recipe to start this challenge off!
Zucchini is a very versatile vegetable – or fruit if you want to go all technical on me. Its mild flavour is great both with full, robust dishes or simple, clean ones. A couple of my favourite zucchini dishes include Japanese style zucchini tempura and mediterranean grilled zucchini salad. Mmmmm….
I have never tried making a zucchini gratin. When I received the recipe, my first reaction was “Yippee!!” because it seemed ultra simple with a tiny list of ingredients. Then I realised there’s no bread crumbs, no cheese, , no cream, no egg, no butter – basically nothing to form a baked crust. I always thought a gratin requires a crusty, rich crust similar to those of a gratin dauphinois. Maybe I just expected a recipe from Stephane Reynaud to come packed full of fat and flavour.
I was dubious. I didn’t think this recipe was going to impress me. Rounds of zucchini and onions, lemon thyme, rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Really? That sounded too healthy. However I gave it a shot and you won’t believe how simple the preparation was and how much easier it was to cook it.
Vertically layer the vegetables tightly, drizzle olive oil, sprinkle the seasoning and herbs (I used dried herbs instead of fresh), chuck in the oven (150 deg c) for 15 minutes. That simple. No kidding.
I left it in the oven for five extra minutes as I wanted the top of the dish to caramelise more and have delicious brown bits. (Maybe I can’t let go of a gratin not having a crust!) The recipe indicated that the veggies should still be al dente.
I served the zucchini gratin with a simple pan-fried chicken maryland with fennel and coriander. The simple, clean flavours of the zucchini gratin complemented the dish and it was surprisingly delicious! The herbs enhanced the natural sweetness of the al dente vegetables. It makes for a fantastic side dish. So simple, so delicious and so, so easy to prepare. I’m sorry I ever doubted the recipe and I will definitely cook this again.
For more information about the 365 challenge and to read about other blogger’s attempts at the recipes, visit the Murdoch Books Blog here.
I’m off to Singapore and Vietnam tomorrow for two weeks of food and festivities. It’d be my first time visiting Vietnam and I’m looking forward to it. Most of the time will be spent celebrating the union of my brother-in-law and his future wife, but trust me, I’m definitely going to try and fit in copious amounts of food sampling. Yay me!
Nothing exciting happening in my own kitchen though…it seems my boxes and beloved cookware have now gone past the Mediterranean and enroute to Singapore, possibly somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Fingers crossed the boxes will go through a smooth transfer to another ship before making its way down under.
For now, I’m dusting off an older post, birthed in my London kitchen. It was inspired from my trip to Miami, the land of giant and delicious crab cakes.
EASY CRAB CAKES
Makes about 6-8 cakes
3 x 170g canned crab meat
1/2 cup of seasoned breadcrumbs
1 cup of cooked potatoes, chopped or crushed
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 cup of yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp capers, rinsed and chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
pinch of cayenne pepper
a light squeeze of fresh lemon juice
a handful of chopped parsley
salt and pepper
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients except the breadcrumbs together.
Divide the mixture into 6-8 portions, shape into patties, coat lightly in breadcrumbs and shallow fry till golden brown.
Serve with lemon wedges and a side salad.
Enjoy!! See you in two weeks time (I may blog while I’m away but no guarantees, I may be too busy eating!)…
All the boxes have left the building. What a relief. This whole moving to a whole different continent thing is not proving to be fun…but sitting here in a half empty apartment, I’m actually getting psyched and excited about going home to Australia. Can’t wait to see all our friends again.
I’m relishing an unusually warm Spring here in London, soaking in all the sun before we head back to Winter again. Now that, I’m not looking forward to.
Right, Cashew Blondies. I mentioned in my previous post that I showered my colleagues on my last day at work with more baked goods. This is my first time I’ve baked with cashews. I liked it. The cashews gave the cake a nutty, slightly creamy flavour and stood out strong against the bittersweet chocolate bits.
So I leave this with you until I find the opportunity to blog again…wherever I may be. Sweet dreams!
adapted from Chocolate Temptations (Linda Collister)
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
3 cups self-raising flour
a large pinch of salt
1/2 cup chopped cashews (I used non-roasted)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line baking tray with foil.
In a heavy pan, melt the butter. Add the sugar, stir well, and remove from the heat. Let cool for a minute, then add the eggs and vanilla, stirring well.
Sift the flour, salt and baking powder over the butter, sugar and egg mixture. Stir only until thoroughly blended, but don’t beat or overmix. Fold in nuts and chocolate.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 25 minutes until just firm.
Cool for a while in the baking tray, then lift the cake, transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove the foil and cut into squares.
Ten more days people! Ten more days before I uproot four years of my life in the UK back to good ol’ Australia. It’s been crazy. I definitely have a good excuse for not posting as regularly. Please bear with me…but right now, cardboard boxes and constant ‘pack, chuck or think about it’ questions rule my life.
The last time I made orange marmalade macarons, my colleagues went gaga over them. Many asking for the recipes while scoffing them during morning tea break. Since the last one went down so well, I decided I’ll spoil them again before I finish off my second last week of work with this chocolate macaron with espresso buttercream.
I don’t really know if those guys at work will miss me more or would it be my offerings of baked goods for morning tea they’ll miss. Just kidding. I have enjoyed using them as my guinea pigs, and will definitely miss this wonderful bunch of people. I did go in on my last day at work with more baked goods (upcoming post) and the next time I bake anything, it will be on a whole new continent. The thought of it is blowing my mind!
After posting this, it’s back to crazy packing. And by end of the week, hubby and I will be living out of our suitcases, watching movies on our laptops (bye bye TV *sob*) and eating takeaways.
Chocolate and coffee is a classic combination and I loved making this. I used really strong espresso but you can substitute with espresso powder mixed into vanilla extract.
Once again, I never know if the macs would turn out okay…
But they did…phew.
CHOCOLATE MACARON (Italian Method)
200g almond meal or ground blanched almonds
200g confectioners’ sugar
15g unsweetened dutch-processes cocoa powder
150g egg whites, divided into two 75g portions
Method for making macarons can be found here, along with tips and tricks. With the cocoa powder, sift it together with the almond meal and proceed as usual.
225g unsalted butter, softened
250g powdered sugar
2 tbsp very strong espresso
1 tsp vanilla extract
Using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping once to scrape the sides of the bowl. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar a little at a time, waiting until it is mostly incorporated before adding more.
Once all of the powdered sugar has been added, scrape the sides of the bowl, continue on low while adding vanilla and espresso till fully incorporated. Beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.