September 24, 2012
Do you ever just by an ingredient because it's cute?
That's how I was suckered into these little cuties at the markets this week.
I couldn't resist the perfect little corella pears that were so dainty and tiny- perfect little miniatures
See how much smaller they are next to a regular sized one?
I just couldn't bear to cut them up, I had to find a recipe that would make the most of their cute factor as well as their yumminess factor. I figured that as they were already a perfect individual serving size, I would take that theme a bit further and serve them as an individual cake dessert. Can you combine cute and elegant? I think I just about managed it :)
Pear and Almond Cakes
1 cup Almond Meal
1 cup gluten free Flour
125gm Butter/ dairy free alternative
1/2 cup Pear Juice
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Castor Sugar
First things first, prepare the pears
The best way to remove the core is with a melon baller. Try not to dig in too deeply, as you don't want to take out very much flesh, just the seedy bits. You coud certainly leave them in if you want, it will just be a bit crunchy!
I always find the easiest way to keep a nice smooth line for presentation is to peel the pears downwards. This way I can get the peeler all the way down the stalk as well in a nice single stroke which leaves it looking nice and tidy
Place the pears into acidulated water (add some lemon juice to the water bowl) as soon as they're peeled as they go brown really quickly
Now if these were large pears and you were leaving them whole, they would probably need to be poached before using. But as these are teensy tiny, I don't want them to get too soft and go mushy
Beat together the butter, sugar and eggs until nice and fluffy
Add in the flour, almond meal and juice
Just beat until nicely combined
I used Texas muffin tins for these, they have a 1 cup capacity and a nice shallow dish that wouldn't swallow up the whole pear
Use about 1/2 cup of mix, then snuggle the pear in gently. Be careful not to push the pear all the way down to the bottom of the tin as the cakes need a nice firm base to bake under the pear so the cake will come out nicely and hold together
Sprinkle with flaked almonds to make the cakies look pretty and to add a nice crunch
Bake for about 25 minutes at 170*C. You want the cakes to firm up nicely but not overcook the pears on top. They will go browner than the inside bits, but still taste nice- I promise!
These are a lovely moist cake with a very delicate flavour. They are very nice on their own, but I also served them in a puddle of custard for extra bling, but if you really wanted to go for broke a toffee sauce would be sublime.
Aren't these Pretty Little Pear Cakes? I think so, I hope you do too!
So Dear Readers, do you ever buy ingredients just because they're cute, and do you think it's possible to combine elegant and cute at the same time?
September 17, 2012
I've been working in the garden lately
Although it's still early Spring, and we're not safe from frosts yet, I've got potato shoots sticking above the soil promising big things things come later in the year.
Actually I've had to cover my potato pots with chicken wire as my naughty doggie likes to snuffle his snout through the dirt, digging up potato flavoured balls to play with. He doesn't consider this a waste of epicurian delights, after all they're just potatoes- right? But fresh potatoes are so lovely, it wasn't until I grew my own that I realised potatoes are really as crunchy and juicy as apples!
Potatoes are really native to South America not Canberra, and weren't introduced to Europe until about the 16th century, where the Italians added them to the little dumplings previously made with semolina, bread crumbs or even ricotta, and a new classic was born. They can be boiled or boiled then fried, are delicious carriers for sauce and they stick to your ribs in true Nonna food fashion.
500gr Potatoes (floury types are best, but this is what I had to hand)
1 cup gluten free Flour
2 Egg Yolks
big pinch of Salt
First things first, cook your potatoes, the idea is to keep the potatoes as dry as possible as that will keep the gnocchi as light as possible. You can bake them in the oven but that will take a while, or you can cheat just a little like I did, and microwave them instead. Shhhh.... just don't tell all the Nonna's out there, will you?
Stab the potatoes with a fork to pierce the skin and to avoid the potato exploding in the microwave
Cook them until nice and very soft
Scoop the potatoes out of their skins while still nice and warm
Have you seen one of these before? Its a Potato Ricer and it's kind of like a huge big garlic press, but for potatoes. It smushes the spuddies out of the little holes making little rice-like grains or strands. If you don't have one, you can just mash them up instead
So strangely satisfying....
Let the potato cool a bit for a while, just enough so that the egg yolks won't cook when mixed in
Add in the flour, yolks and salt then knead briefly until it forms a soft, slightly sticky dough
Don't pound away at it or it will turn into tough little nuggets, try and use a gentle touch to create light, fluffy little pillows instead
Divide the dough into quarters, then roll into a finger-thickness sausage and cut into little pieces about 1 1/2cm long
Roll each little bitty down the back of a fork, pressing slightly to leave stripy little indents around their girth. These grooves will trap sauce in them later on, ensuring each bite has a lovely sauce to dumpling ratio instead of just starchy solids
Keep going until all done
Pop the gnocchi into a pan of salted boiling water, and then wait until they float to the surface
As soon as they float, scoop them out and drain before tossing through the sauce of your choosing
Today I choose cheese-less Pesto!
1 cup or 1 bunch Basil
1/2 cup toasted Pinenuts
1 or 2 cloves of Garlic
Nice Olive Oil, about 1/2 cup or as much as needed
big pinch of Salt
Blend all the ingredients together, adding more oil if needed to make a loose sauce. I left mine a little chunky for a bit of yummy texture
Carefully stir the sauce through the gnocchi until they are all nicely coated and stuck in all those groovy grooves
Pile up high in your bowl, and dig in!
Scatter with Parmesan cheese if your InTolerances will let you, but these are delicious just as-is. Soft and billowy little pillows of potato - Yummo
So my Dear Readers, do you enjoy basil, and do you have much going on in your garden at the moment?
Polyanthus not potatoes, but protection guaranteed!
September 11, 2012
I may have mentioned once or twice in the past, just how much I love Yum Cha/ Dim Sum/ Asian Dumplings.
The only problem of course, is finding ones that are InTolerant Friendly for InTolerants like me.
Apparently I'm not the only one out there who craves a good dumpling or two, as the most viewed post on my blog by far is the one on Gluten Free Chinese Dumplings.
This recipe used Glutinous Rice Flour (not related to gluten at all) and fresh Taro to make gorgeously slippery little dumplings or rice rolls that were truly just as nice as the ones I get at my favourite Dim Sum restaurant.
As it's obviously touched a culinary nerve or two, I thought I'd expand a bit on the Asian Dumpling theme a bit in the coming weeks, starting with today's offering of Thai Pearl Dumplings.
These have got to be the easiest dumpling skins around, just Pearl Tapioca Balls and water, that's it. How easy is that! An added bonus it that they are absolutely delicious, very chewy though, so be prepared for a multi textural experience with these little lovelies.
1 cup Tapioca Pearls
1/2 boiling Water
Cover the tapioca pearls with cold water then drain immediately
Pop the pearls back in the bowl, add the salt and boiling water and stir well
Cover and put them aside while you make the filling
Really, you could stuff the dumplings with whatever filling you like. I wanted to try and replicate one of BigJ's favourites from our local Thai restaurant, that's full of sweet caramelised peanuts mixed with minced pork. Sounds strange? Well, by the time you balanced out the sugar with fish sauce and lime juice, you get that whole Sweet/Sour/Salty balance that's essential in any Thai meal.
In this case the filling needs to be quite assertive as the dumpling skin is pretty tasteless on it's own, and needs that wow factor when bitten into
300gr ground Pork or Chicken
1/2 cup Crushed Peanuts- I dry roasted them in the fry pan for about 2 minutes first for a much stronger flavour
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup (ish) Fish Sauce
1/4 cup (ish) Lime Juice
1 big Tablespoon crushed Ginger
1 big Tablespoon crushed Garlic
1 big teaspoon Lemon Grass Paste
Spring Onions finely chopped
Cook off the mince meat, ginger, garlic and lemon grass until sealed
Add in the brown sugar, sauce and juice and keep stirring until it all caramelises and changes colour to a deeper brown colour. Keep an eye on it though as it could catch quickly. If you're having a hard time, add in a touch more sugar and a splash or two of water as needed
Taste the mix, and adjust the balance of flavours by adding more fish sauce/juice/sugar until it's juuuust right. Take off the heat.
Toss through the peanuts and spring onions, then set aside to cool
Now the fun part!
First things first, take off any rings- your hands will get all gunky and you'll be grateful you heeded my warning
Gather the tapioca into a ball and knead it until it comes together
Roll it into a sausage shape, then cut into twelve equal pieces- I started with 24, but changed my mind :)
Wet your hands in a bowl of cold water, then flatten the balls in the palm of your hand while making a kind of little cup to hold the filling
Place a spoonful of filling in the middle of the cup
Scrunch your hand around the filling
Pinch the edges together, smoothing it down with with a wet finger to encase the filling totally and making a nice round ball
This makes about 12 golf ball sized dumplings You could make them smaller, but it would certainly be harder to pat the dough out thin enough
Pop the little dumplings into a steamer for about 20 minutes, or until all the dough goes from white to totally translucent I sprayed the bottom of the racks with a little oil as these dumplings are very,very sticky when they're hot
They look like jelly fish on the outside, don't they?
Now I tried one of these while they were still hot, and while the flavours were nice the texture could be challenging to some people. The dough was sticky, stretchy and very gloopy- hard to chew and swallow actually. There's a reason these are traditionally served just warm or at room temperature :)
The dough goes more opaque as it cools down
The usual way of serving these dumplings is to pop some herbs like mint or coriander and chilli onto a lettuce leaf
Wrap up into a cute little parcel, and serve with some sauce to dunk them in. This was a much nicer way of eating them, the lettuce gave a nice crunch as well as giving your teeth something to grip onto!
Nice sweet filling, a soft crunch of the nuts, chewy soft dumping then the crisp lettuce leaf all added up to a lovely lunch indeed. My family loved them, but I don't think I'd serve them to quite young children as you really do need to chew these well :)
So My Dear Readers, what's your favourite type of dumpling, and where do you go to get it?