Thursday, August 31, 2006

Weekend Breakfast Blogging #4

Pavani from Cook's Hideout is hosting this edition of Weekend Breakfast Blogging while Nandita is away.

Weekends are a time for going out for Breakfast so I thought I'd once again replicate one of my favourite cafe breakfasts. In this dish scrambled eggs go from ho-hum to yum - teamed with slow-roasted baby tomatoes, fresh basil and goat's cheese, this is a dish you'll be wanting to have again and again.

dish

Mediterranean Scrambled Eggs

For 1 serve:
2 free-range eggs
1 tablespoon cream
6 slow-roasted baby tomatoes
fresh basil leaves, shredded
fresh goat's cheese, cubed and a few slices for garnish (Marinated Fetta would also work well)
freshly ground salt and pepper
butter
1 thick slice Ciabatta bread, toasted

Break the eggs into a bowl and add the cream and a grind of salt and pepper. With a fork very lightly whisk to break up the yolks - don't over-whisk this. Fork through the cubed cheese, basil and tomatoes.

Heat a small saucepan over a low flame, with a generous knob of butter - the butter is very important to the taste and texture of the final result. When the butter has just about melted, add the egg mixture. Using a spatula, stir from the outside towards the centre - I think the key to those creamy scrambled eggs is to use a low heat and to continue stirring, you want to avoid overcooking the eggs as much as possible. When you feel it's beginning to thicken, take it from the heat, keep stirring to ensure an even spread of heat. When they are just coming together, serve on hot toasted bread.

eggs

Garnish with a few thin slices of goat's cheese and a grinding of fresh black pepper.

eggs

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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Jihva for Ingredients #5

Vineela from Vineela's Cusine is hosting this month's Jihva for Ingredient and the theme is Milk & Milk Products.

With so many products to choose from I decided to stay with the source and focus on milk and use it in the traditional Spanish dessert of Leche Frita.

Leche Frita, or "Fried Milk" is basically made from milk, flour and sugar - this forms a thick custard which is then spread out on a tray to harden. It's cut into rectangles, crumbed and shallow fried. The result is a delicious bite sized treat of warm custard encased in a crisp shell. This recipe has been adapted from "A little taste of Spain" by Vicky Harris.

Leche Frita by Haalo


Leche Frita (Fried Milk)

500ml milk
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
140 grams unsalted butter
250 grams plain flour
145 grams caster sugar
4 eggs, separated
125 grams dry breadcrumbs
vegetable oil, for shallow frying

Line the base of a shallow rectangular tin with baking paper.

Place the milk in a small saucepan with the split vanilla bean, cinnamon stick and cardamom seeds. Cook until it almost boils, stirring occasionally before turning off the heat.

Place the butter into a non-stick saucepan and melt before adding 185 grams of the plain flour. Stir this well - the mixture will form a loose clump around the spoon. Continue cooking for 30 seconds before adding the caster sugar. Strain the milk and then gradually begin to add it to the pan stirring constantly to ensure that no lumps will form. Once all the milk has been adding keep stirring until a smooth mass forms and it leaves the side of the saucepan.

Take it from the heat and add the egg yolks, one at a time. Making sure each egg is completely absorbed before adding the next. This takes a bit of vigourous stirring - the custard should have slackened and become quite glossy.

Spread this out onto the prepared tray and smooth the top. Place it to one side for at least an hour to cool and set.

custard

Very lightly whisk the egg whites with a fork. Sift the remaining flour into a flat plate and place the dry breadcrumbs into a bowl.

Using the baking paper, remove the custard from the tray.

You can use a ruler to help you cut straight lines - cut a slice about 4cm/1½ inch wide. Then cut the slice into squares or rectangles or a bit of both. Only do one row at a time.

Lightly dust these squares into the flour, then dip in the eggwhite before placing them into the breadcrumbs. Place to one side will prepare the rest.

crumbed

You can store them at this stage in the fridge in a sealed container.

Pour vegetable oil into a small saucepan to a depth of 2 inches deep. Heat until it reaches about 140°C/290°F. Cook a few at a time for about 1 minute or until browned on all sides. Drain on paper towels and if you like you can dust them with cinnamon sugar while still hot.

leche frita

The are best served hot or warm which shouldn't be a problem as they seem to disappear quite quickly!

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Not your average Walnuts

walnuts

It was impossible to resist these wonderfully fresh walnuts - the story behind them, a tale of a labour of love.

These come from Waterwood Farm in the Yarra Valley, Launching Place to be exact. It's a small walnut and chestnut orchard of approximately 200 walnut and 200 chestnut trees. These nuts are the "Franquette" variety.

Harvesting is done according to natures cycle - they wait until the nuts fall to the ground and then are hand collected each morning. They are brushed clean by hand and then air dried on wire trays.

The cracked nuts are all done by hand, which shows in the fact that they come as beautifully complete nuts. Tastewise, they are sweet and crispy - which isn't usually the case when it comes to buying them in a commercial situation. They are prone to quickly becoming rancid.

These nuts are more than delicious enough to eat as they are but I thought should do something that would place these perfect walnuts, front and centre. So I scavenged my memory banks and came up with a cookie - a simple butter cookie studded with walnuts.

walnut cookies

Walnut Butter Cookies

120 grams unsalted butter, softened
150 grams caster sugar
1 egg, lightly whisked
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)
200 grams self-raising flour, sifted
whole walnuts

Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar until creamy and the sugar has dissolved. Add the egg & vanilla, mixing well until amalgamated.

Stir in the sifted flour until fully combined.

Roll spoonfuls of the mixture into small balls and place on a lined tray - leaving room for the cookie to spread. Press a walnut into the centre of each ball

cookies

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

Cool on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container.

cookies

Crisp and buttery with a wonderful crunch of walnut, a perfect match for tea or coffee or just if you are feeling a little peckish. Double the mix as they won't last long!

For locals
You can find these walnuts from May to October at the Yarra Valley Farmers'' Market at Yering Station on the 3rd Sunday of each month.

Waterwood Farm
Ken & Elizabeth Jacka
1600 Don Road, Launching Place


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Monday, August 28, 2006

Cheese: Red Hill Indulgence

Inspired by Farmhouse cheese-making in Europe, Red Hill Cheese was established in 2000 at Red Hill in the scenic Mornington Peninsula, here in my home state of Victoria.

Using organic cow milk and free-range goat milk from single herds they produce a range of seasonal cheese. It's worth noting that a vegetarian rennet is used and that they are free of artificial stabilisers and preservatives.

red hill cheese

Cheese Maker: Red Hill Cheese
Cheese Type: Indulgence (Cow)
Location: 81 William Road (Off Arthurs Seat Road), Red Hill
Cellar Door: Open daily Noon-5pm (except Christmas, Boxing Day & Good Friday)

Indulgence is a curd style, cows' milk cheese - and sold in two forms, fresh and aged. When young it's snow white in colour but as it matures it darkens. It's skin moves from a soft wrinkle to having a more waxy appearance. Indulgence is described as a "sweet-lactic, creamy, fine-textured, wrinkled, traditional soft cheese." This particular cheese is the aged version.


notice

There's a note on the side of the cheese alerting us to the fact that there may be some blue mould on the cheese - it's just due to the cheese-making process - natural floras are allowed to develop in the cellars.

cheese

You can see some traces of how white it is when first made - this is about 2 weeks from being fully matured.

cheese

I quite like it's compact barrel shape - there's some character to it.

indulgence

Opened, it gives a good idea of how it's matured - the smooth, creamy line near the rind indicates a fully matured state - the maturation moves from the outside towards the centre.

There's quite a bit of flavour accompanying a sweet, mouth filling creaminess. There's also a definite saltiness to it's taste but that gives it a clean flavour.

All up, an interesting cheese with a lot of character and a unique taste.

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Sunday, August 27, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #47

Weekend Herb Blogging returns to Kalyn's Kitchen this week and this time I'm taking a closer look at carrots.

carrots

Well, maybe that's too close of a look. These certainly aren't the most photogenic carrots but they are good for you. They won't improve your eyesight but they do supply us with lots of Vitamin A, which in a round about way, is needed to maintain eye health. It also helps keep our skin clear and fight off infection. All up, there are very good reasons to be eating them.

I tend to use carrots very regularly - they are a staple but they always seem to be used in the same ways. I suppose you could say when it comes to carrots, I'm in a rut.

So I thought I'd take the opportunity to utilise these plain janes and try something new with them. The answer came while scanning through Stephanie Alexander's tome The Cook's Companion. I came upon quite a delicious sounding recipe for "Indian-style carrot fritters." A fairly straight forward recipe that sees grated carrot flavoured with cumin, coriander, turmeric and cayenne pepper and mixed in a besan (chick-pea flour) and beer batter. The end result was a much more attractive look, if I do say so myself.

carrot fritters

Spiced Carrot Fritters

½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
1½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
150 grams Besan flour, sifted
½ cup beer
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup shredded carrot
6 spring onions, finely chopped
2 coriander plants, roots and leaves, finely chopped
oil, to shallow fry
fresh coriander leaves, for garnish
sour cream, to serve

Sift the flour, salt and dry spices into a bowl. Stir well to ensure the spices have been mixed through. Add the beaten egg and beer and mix again. Then stir in the grated carrot, spring onions and fresh coriander.

mixture

Use a non-stick fry pan and coat with a layer of oil - I'm going to shallow fry these instead of deep frying. Drop spoonfuls of the mix into the hot oil and spread it out to form a rough circle shape. I've made these about 5cm/2 inches in diameter - you can make them larger or smaller if you like. Flip them over when you see bubbles forming on the surface of each fritter and continue cooking until it's golden. Drain on paper towels to remove any excess oil.

ready to eat

Serve them when they are still hot with sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh coriander leaves. They are an ideal size for use as finger food.

fritter close up

When you open them up there's a lovely contrast of textures - with the grated carrot having softened slightly and the fragrance of the fresh coriander and spring onion coming through. There's a nice level of spice that shouldn't really be a problem to anyone. Using beer lifts the fritters and makes them delightfully light and fluffy and thanks to the combination of besan and turmeric they have the most wonderful saffron hue.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006

From My Rasoi #8

Katherine from Toastpoint is hosting this month's From My Rasoi and she issued an Indian dessert challenge.

I decided to meld two cuisines - inspired by the flavourings of Chai (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and vanilla) I've infused them into a traditional French Crème Brûlée to create a Chai Spiced Brûlée.

This Brûlée would be enough for two - I've presented it in a single dish as I think the nicest part of an Indian meal is the sharing of dishes and this really shouldn't stop when it comes to dessert.

brulee

Chai Spiced Brulee

250mls cream
1 teaspoon cardamom seeds
1 cinnamon stick
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon honey
brown sugar, for topping

In a small pan, place the cream, cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, ground nutmeg and vanilla extract (if you are using vanilla bean paste you will add it later).

Under a very gentle heat slowly let this come to near boiling point, stirring to ensure the spices are mixing through. When it reaches boiling point, remove from the heat and let it sit and infuse for approximately half an hour. Pour this through a fine strainer to remove the solids and into a bowl, then stir in the vanilla bean paste, if you are using it. You want to see those speckles in the finished product.

Whisk the egg yolks with the honey until combined. Pour the strained cream mixture onto the yolks and whisk to incorporate.

Return this to a saucepan and place over a gentle heat and stir until the mixture thickens and resembles a custard. Pour this into a shallow dish and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in the fridge to set - around 3-4 hours or you can leave it overnight.

When you are ready to serve, then sprinkle it lightly with soft brown sugar and then run over the top with a blow-torch. If you don't have one you can place it under a grill.

sugar

It's best to do this in stages and build up the caramelised topping - I repeat the sugar sprinkling 3 or 4 times to get it to a nice thickness. To hasten the sugar's hardening when it's complete, run an ice cube over the caramelised sugar - this should set it.

brulee

You might have to toss and see who gets to crack through that sugar crust first!

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Friday, August 25, 2006

Meme: Five Things

I can only imagine the wry smile that might have crossed Neil's face as a new meme reached his blog. I'm more than happy that he decided to share it with me - it is quite a thought provoking one.

Melissa from The Traveler's Lunchbox has started this project to form a list of the "5 things you've eaten and think that everyone should eat at least once before they die" - it doesn't quite roll off the tongue but I don't think shortening it to FTYEATTESEALOBTD is that catchy either. I am quite partial to that "at least once" part.

As with all finite numbered lists the problem always comes when you try to fill in that last spot - in reality that last spot is a choice out of thousands.

1. Umbrian White Truffles
The ultimate simple yet perfect dish - scrambled eggs topped with a wiggling sea of finely sliced white truffle. Better yet, you would have stored that truffle in the egg carton overnight to allow the aromas to seep through the porous shells and permeate the yolks. You'll be greeted with a multitude of pleasures, from the intoxicating aromas as you open the fridge to retrieve your eggs to when you gaze down on your oh-so-soft and just scrambled eggs, just breathe in and smile. Take a bite and find perfection.

2. Foie Gras
Well, it's just so politically incorrect isn't it? Eat it and enjoy it while you still have the choice.

3. Fresh Italian Buffalo Bocconcini
You know, it's so fresh that when you rip it in half, it weeps whey from it's silken flesh. I thought our local version was good but then I experienced the real thing in Italy - no comparison at all. It's creamy, it's soft and unmentionable delicious.

4. Canadian Scallops
With apologies to Australian Scallops, my heart belongs to these Canadian beauties. Having first tasted them in Seattle it was love at first bite. So when I had them here a few years later, I was a very happy girl indeed. They have substance, they are sweet and they are succulent.

5. 100 year old Seppelt Para Liqueur Vintage Tawny
This is something we were very fortunate to taste a few years back and we can still can recall it's flavour, it's texture, it's taste and the thought of it makes our mouths water.
There was an amazing amount of foresight in it's production. It's 1878 in Australia, Benno Seppelt decides to put a cask of Port away to celebrate his first Vintage and it's not to be touched for 100 years. Better yet, he decides that from now on, in every vintage, a cask of the best wine will be set aside as well. He leaves Seppelt with an unparalleled record - it's the only company in the world that has over 100 consecutive vintages of one product maturing in their cellars.

Now, once 100 years has passed it can be sold but even that is done to order. So the 1878 is still sitting there in it's cask...waiting.

The taste is unique but what stands out most is just how perfectly balanced it is. Colourwise it's similar to molasses or vanilla extract, incredibly thick and luscious, such complexity that comes only with age and a taste that lingers - oak, toffee, raisins, and fruitcake flavours.


Now it's time to pass on the meme...
1. Anna from Morsels and Musings
2. Mellie from Tummy Rumbles
3. Surfindaave from The Serendipitous Chef
4. Emma from The Laughing Gastronome
5. Susan from Porcini Chronicles

Naturally enough, only do it if you feel like it and if anyone else feels like joining in, then go right ahead. Don't forget to link back to Melissa so she add your suggestions to the list!

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Sugar High Friday #22

Sugar High Friday, hosted by Delicious Days is celebrating the age old custom of preservation - be it canned or jammed, the only real criteria is in the use of sugar.

Since it is winter here, there aren't quite as many candidates out there to use in a jam, but there is something that just thrives in winter - Rhubarb!

rhubarb

The farmer's market had bunches of just picked, thick stemmed rhubarb that I couldn't' resist. To work with the Rhubarb's slightly tart flavour, I've teamed it up with Granny Smith Apples and to bring in an different point of sweetness and those lovely telltale tiny black spots, Vanilla bean.

jam

Rhubarb, Apple & Vanilla Jam

450 grams Rhubarb, washed
450 grams Granny Smith Apples, peeled and quartered
1 cup water
800 grams white sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1 vanilla bean, sliced in half

The rough recipe for jam making is to use equal quantities of fruit and sugar. Because I don't want an overly sweet jam I've slightly decreased the quantity of sugar. This helps to retain the characteristic taste of rhubarb and as mentioned earlier, the vanilla brings it's own type of sweetness to the final product.

The stalks I had were quite large so I cut them in half and then into rough cubes.

rhubarb

Similarly after quartering the apples cut them roughly into the same sized pieces as the Rhubarb. For this recipe I needed 4 apples but this vary depending on the apple size.

apple and rhubarb

Use a heavy based saucepan and place over a medium heat - add the apple and rhubarb, the juice of one lemon and the water. Simmer for a few minutes to allow the fruit to begin to soften at release it's own juice. Add in the sugar, stirring until it dissolves before finally adding the sliced vanilla bean.

Cook this slowly, allowing it to gently simmer but not boil. Stir to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan and wash down the sides of your saucepan with a pastry brush dipped in water.

The rhubarb will be the first to dissolve giving the mix a stringy type of texture with the apples taking longer. In fact you could probably still have some chunks of apple left by the time it's cooked - that just adds to the character of the jam.

There are quite a few ways to tell when the jam is ready, the easiest way is to use a sugar thermometer and when it reaches 104°C/220°F the jam should have set.

Another method is to drop a little onto a cold plate, then quickly chill it. If it forms a skin and wrinkles when pushed, the jam is done. Make sure you've taken the jam off the heat while you are testing it.

A final method involves using a wooden spoon - stir the jam and remove the spoon. If, when you draw your finger through the jam at the back of the spoon and it stays separate, then the jam has reached setting point.

This jam took around 45 minutes to reach the setting stage.

I poured it when still hot into a warm and dry preserving jar (these are Italian Vacuum Seal Jars) - I left the vanilla bean inside just for decoration sakes.

jar

I tapped it on a bench a few times to settle the mix and release any trapped air bubbles before sealing it. With these jars you'll hear the seal pop as it cools indicating that a vacuum has formed.

jam

The final result is a deliciously thick jam, with that pinky rhubarb colouring and a slight tartness mixing with the floral notes of vanilla. Just perfect on scones!

As a footnote here's a list of some of my favourite books on preserving
The Complete Book of Home-Made Preserves by Jill Nice
Perfect Preserves by Nora Carey
Sensational Preserves by Hilaire Walden
Clearly Delicious by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz
The Mediterranean Pantry by Aglaia Kremezi

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Silverbeet and Parmesan Soufflé

One of stalls I look forward to visiting at the local Farmer's Market is the hydroponics stall. A variety of leafy plants are on offering - all of them legal. Amongst the bunches of peppery watercress and vibrant coriander sits another one of those second-class citizens of the vegetable world, Silverbeet.

silverbeet

Perhaps Silverbeet needs a better PR agent - Spinach has become the darling of the Amaranthaceae family especially in it's baby form. Everywhere you look you'll find some kind of baby spinach leaf lurking about.

Maybe it's those large stalks that put people off but they shouldn't. The stalks are an especially delicious part of the plant, cooked as my mother would, very slowly, in a mix of onions and tomato. A deliciously rich sauce would cling to the softened stalks, a wonderful dish for a winter's night.

This bunch doesn't have those large stalks and for the recipe I'm making they won't be needed. I've decided to utilise the soft and sweet leaves and knock spinach off it's high horse, making it the star of this soufflé.

souffle

Silverbeet and Parmesan Soufflé

1 bunch Baby Silverbeet
40 grams butter
2 tablespoons cornflour
1½ cups milk
2 eggs, separated
40 grams grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
freshly ground salt and white pepper
butter and fine breadcrumbs, for coating soufflé dishes

Prepare the Silverbeet:
Strip the leaves from the larger stalks - you can keep the stalk in the case of the really small leaves. Boil in salted water until just softened - this should take 2-3 minutes. Drain immediately and plunge in cold water. Squeeze all the excess water from the leaves and then roughly chop. Set this aside.

Make the Soufflé Base:
Place the butter in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Once the butter has just melted, add the cornflour. Stir this well to form a smooth paste.
There are a couple of ways to add the milk - you can add it slowly, constantly stirring until it re-thickens before adding another some more. Or you can dump the whole lot in, whisk to remove all the lumps then let it return to temperature. Stir to ensure no lumps form and by the time it's reheated it will be thick enough and cooked through.

Once it's thick you can add the chopped silverbeet, cheese, salt and white pepper (white pepper just looks a bit nicer) and the two egg yolk. Stir this well to make sure it's evenly mix. Place this to one side and allow to cool to room temperature.

Prepare the Soufflé Dishes:
I'm using ½ cup sized moulds and this mix will make 4 soufflés. Butter them well, base and sides then sprinkle in the breadcrumbs. To ensure an even coating, hold the mould at a slight angle while you rotate it - have a second mould sitting underneath to collect the excess breadcrumbs.

dishes

Finish the Soufflés:
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold a quarter of the whites into the cooled base to slacken then fold in the rest of the egg whites. It's important to keep as much air as possible in the mix.

Spoon this out into the moulds. To help with the lift, run your finger around the sides of the moulds to create an edge. This just separates the souffle from the side of the dish and should result in higher soufflé.

souffle

Place these in a preheated 200°C/400°F oven. It's important to have the oven well heated as the soufflé needs that immediate hit of heat to get it to rise. The other well known fact is that you should not open the oven door - this has more to do with the release of heat. The soufflé will take around 15 minutes to cook - keep the oven light on and look through the door to check on it's progress.

Once cooked, then serve immediately. This would be a perfect start to a meal and should be met with gasps of appreciation.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging #46

This week we find ourselves in a different kitchen as Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted by Anthony from Anthony's Kitchen.

The subject for this post comes straight from the local farmer's market - an uncommon item in these parts, if not this country but quite the norm in traditional Italian cuisine. It's heritage is probably what drew me to it - though I must say it's "wild" and dishevelled appearance clinched the deal.

This rather unusual posy is Cavolicelli.

Cavolicelli

It's English translation isn't quite as lyrical, just plain old wild broccoli stems. These are in fact cultivated though they come from the "wild seed".

A lot of people would probably baulk at broccoli let alone the stems - it's another of those misunderstood and unloved vegetables like Brussels sprouts.

Broccoli is a vegetable I quite enjoy...as long as it's not overcooked (that is a mantra for many things in the kitchen!). One of the best bits of the plant is the stem rather than the head - taste-wise and nutritionally. The leaves and stem contain loads of Vitamin A - just one cup contains three times the recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin A.

To get the most out of Broccoli choose the smaller heads - the stems will be more tender and the heads not as bitter as the larger, older ones. People do throw the stems away but if you cut away the tougher outer skin you'll find a really sweet and tender core. Cut this into finger thick batons and use them in a stir-fry or boil them with the florets.

Having strayed off the topic, time to return to the Cavolicelli.

How do you prepare cavolicelli?

Preparation is fairly straightforward. If the stalks seem tough, then just cut them away - you'd leave the younger, flexible shoots as they are.

Boil them in salted water until tender, somewhere between 5 - 10 minutes. They will turn a deeper shade of green as they cook.

Drain immediately and squeeze out any remaining water.

There are a few traditional ways with this vegetable - one would be with pasta - boiled shoots would be tossed through a burnt butter sauce just before adding the cooked pasta and serving, this is best with a long style of pasta like Fettucine. Another is a Sicilian speciality - Frittelle di Cavolicelli, simply Cavolicelli fritters - to an egg, flour and parmesan base, roughly chopped boiled shoots are added, then cooked as per usual.

Finally, the method I'll be doing, Cavolicelli Aglio Olio - Cavolicelli with Garlic Oil.

cavolicelli

Cavolicelli Aglio Olio/Cavolicelli with Garlic Oil

1 bunch Cavolicelli, cleaned
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
olive oil
freshly ground salt and pepper
shaved Grana Padano

Once you've cleaned and removed any hard stalks, place them in rapidly boiling salted water. Boil, with the lid off, for 5 - 10 minutes until tender.

Drain and refresh under cold water to stop the cooking process. Using your hands, press between your palms to squeeze out all remaining water. Set to one side.

In a non-stick saucepan, add a dollop of good olive oil and drop in the 2 cloves of unpeeled garlic. Over a very low heat you want to gently sauté the garlic in it's skin until it's extremely soft. This should take a good 10 minutes - the skin will get crispy, keep swirling the garlic in the oil, turning it over to ensure it's evenly cooked. This slow process results in a "sweeter" garlic. Remove the cloves from the oil, they should be soft enough that if you press the base the clove will escape like toothpaste from a tube.

Use the back of a fork to mash these cloves into a smooth paste. Return this paste to the pan and oil, stir to break it up into the oil then add the boiled Cavolicelli. Turn the heat up slightly and sauté - keep the Cavolicelli moving, you don't want them to colour, you just want them to absorb the flavours and heat up.

Grind over with salt and pepper and just before you take it from the heat, sprinkle in a little Grana Padano - give it quick toss, to allow the Grana to melt slightly before placing it into a serving dish.

Top with a few more shavings of Grana - serve immediately.

This is a great match for Roast Chicken.

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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Cheese: King Island Dairy

King Island is located in Bass Strait - a notrious stretch of water between Victoria and Tasmania.

This small island is home to less than 2000 people - it's main industries are fishing (cray and abalone), beef, wool, kelp and most famously dairying.


The environment is quite pristine - pastures are pollution and chemical free. No feed supplements or growth additives are used.

It's also home to that most well-known dairy - King Island Dairy.

scrubbed brie

Cheese Maker: King Island Dairy
Cheese Type: Discovery Scrubbed Brie
Location: King Island

The first thing that you will notice, even before opening the box is the definite aroma of mushrooms - a very pleasant aroma.

Opening the box, you'll find your golden ingot of sorts - well, it is a gold wrapped bar.

box

As you unwrap it's almost like "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", no lucky ticket but there's an increase in that mushroom scent.

unwrapping

You might be asking what exactly is a "scrubbed brie"?

scrubbed brie

It's a cow's milk Brie, made using traditional French techniques that is wrapped Brevi Linens then hand scrubbed to give it those earthy, mushroomy aromas. It has a distinctive saffron skin - it's not as intense as a washed rind cheese and would be a good introduction to this genre of cheese.

inside

As you cut through you'll notice is soft texture, it's almost butter like colouring. Taste wise, it's soft and creamy with delicate mushroom tones.

It is best served at room temperature - you'll notice that it would become softer and have that wonderful gooey characteristic.

brie

It really is a great cheese for a cheese platter - it's a bit unusual but it should be something everyone would enjoy.

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Friday, August 18, 2006

Eggplant Parmigiana

I'm always on the look out for new ideas and new ways to do old things, I was intrigued by this version of a classic dish found in Karen Martini's "Where the Heart is". The three previous recipes from this cookbook have all turned out a treat and have already reappeared in various forms on the dinner table.

Now this recipe I was a bit unsure of. You see in a traditional Eggplant Parmigiana you would make a béchamel (a white sauce) but Karen uses a blend of mascarpone and anchovies. It was probably the sound of my arteries clogging that had me a little on edge. Would the result just be too rich? Would it really be that much better than the traditional route? The only way to find out was to make it - oh, the things I put myself through for the sake of cooking!

parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana

2 large eggplants, peeled and cut lengthways into ½cm (0.2 inch) slices.
110 grams plain flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten with 3 tablespoons water
2 cups fine breadcrumbs
olive oil, for frying
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups tomato passata
80 grams grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
200 grams Mascarpone
4 anchovy fillets, very finely chopped
Fontina cheese, grated
4 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves picked
2 sprigs basil, leaves picked
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, extra

The first part of this recipe is to crumb the eggplant slices. It's a bit unusual but it actually stops the eggplant from disintegrating while the parmigiana is cooking. It makes the eggplant a more important player in the dish.

Dust the slices of eggplant in flour, then dip in the egg before placing in the breadcrumbs. This does take a bit of time.

Once all the slices are done, it's time to cook them.

Shallow fry them in a large non-stick pan over a medium heat - give them about 1-2 minutes on each side. Place them onto paper towels to remove any excess oil.

When they are all cooked, we can now assemble the dish.

Preheat the oven to 170°C/338°F.

Take your deep sided oven proof dish and add 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil. Swirl it around to cover the base and sides.

Add a quarter of the tomato passata to the dish, sprinkle over with 3 tablespoons of grated parmigiano.

Place the mascarpone, anchovy and remaining grated parmigiano into a bowl and stir well to combine.

Place a layer of eggplant slices over the base of the dish. Spoon over with another quarter of the passata, top with some grated Fontina and a few dollops of the mascarpone mixture. Sprinkle with a third of the basil and oregano leaves and a little ground black pepper.

Repeat this layering process, finishing with the cheese and herbs.

Please note that the number of layers will depend on the size of your eggplants and the size of your dish. In this case I was able to make four layers. If you can only make three then change the proportions to thirds, similarly if you make two layers, use halves.

Drizzle with a little more of the extra virgin olive oil and I like to also add another sprinkling of the grated parmigiano.

ready for the oven

ready for the oven

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes before removing the foil and baking for another 15 or until it's golden and bubbling.

cooked

It is quite a beautiful dish to behold - the aromas are wonderful, the basil and oregano really come through.

It's obvious that this is a rich dish and quite hearty so I would suggest serving it with a simple green salad and some crusty bread is a must to soak up the beautiful sauce.

dish

Returning to the original question - is it "better" than béchamel? I think on it's own it's a wonderful version of Eggplant Parmigiana - I would definitely use the crumbing method in future but I would probably, for everyday cooking, use the béchamel sauce...and leave the mascarpone for a tiramisu dessert!

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Peach Crumble Cake

One of the problems with winter is that you don't have that huge variety of fruits that summer brings. Not wanting to make something out of apples or pears - bananas are currently out of the equation - Cyclone Larry decimated the Queensland crops resulting in a shortage and $15 a kilo prices!

So to get a bit of fruit variety I've turned to canned fruit. In this case I'm using Peach quarters that are preserved in natural juice - peaches seem to really like being canned, they maintain their flavour. But if you've got access to fresh ones then can be be used in this cake without any extra preparation.

In this cake I'm using a very tried and true, never fail butter cake recipe and to make the cake a little different, I'm be topping it in a crunchy crumble-like mixture. This contrasts really well with the soft peach pieces that sit underneath.

peach crumble cake


Peach Crumble Cake

1 medium sized can Peach quarters in natural juice drained, syrup reserved
Cake:
250 grams plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
225 grams caster sugar
125 grams melted butter, cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten
75ml peach syrup (or milk)
Crumble:
50 grams butter
50 grams brown sugar
1/2 cup flaked almonds
1 cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Use a baking tin with a removable base to make it easier to un-mould the cake.

To prepare the peaches:
Roughly cut the peach quarters into smaller pieces. You want them to be of varying sizes - some larger, some smaller to give the cake a bit more personality.

To make the cake:
Sift the flour with the baking powder into a large bowl. Sift in the caster sugar and stir well.

In a small bowl, add the eggs, vanilla extract and peach syrup and whisk lightly until combined. Whisk in the cooled melted butter before stirring it all into the dry ingredients. Mix until amalgamated and smooth.

Pour this into a prepared pan and then top with the peach pieces.

cake with peaches

Make the crumble topping:

In a small saucepan add the butter and brown sugar and gentle heat until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved. Stir in the oats, followed by the almonds. Cook for a minute.

Sprinkle this over the peach pieces until they are roughly covered.

cake with crumble

Place in the oven and cook for approximately 45 minutes or until the cake is golden and cooked through.

Cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing to a wire rack.

cake

Best eaten still warm but as it cools the topping will become more crunchy.

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