March 29, 2012
I think I've mentioned before that I don't have that much of a sweet tooth.
Unfortunately that isn't the case for the rest of my family
BigJ loves sweet things. He goes for Cadburys Snack Block, I go for Lidnt 80* black chocolate, he likes to drink Coke, I like plain soda water... Don't they say opposites attract?
Every now and then I like to sweeten the deal though and create a sweet treat for him. Easter is fast approaching, and rather than buy him his usual big bar of Toblerone which has an unequal choc to candy mix, I decided to make some nougat from scratch to team with some milk chocolate bars so he could mix-and-match his way to a perfect ratio of nougaty niceness.
Just one word of warning though: DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME WITHOUT A STAND MIXER! It's just waaaay to hard, you have to drizzle hot toffee syrup, and mix for ages. Too much hassle to try and do by hand- trust me!
Honey Almond Nougat
2 cups White Sugar
3 Egg Whites
1/4 cup Water
2/3 cup Almonds
Rice Paper Sheets
First of all lightly toast the almonds to intensify their nuttiness and add a bit of depth
Measure out your glucose and honey- you can see how scientific I was about it, I guestimated there was about 150 ml missing from my 500ml bottle of glucose, so I just topped it up. Life with glucose is a lot easier if you zap it quickly in the microwave to heat through and thin down.. Much easier indeed!
Line your tray with rice paper to stop it sticking
Put the sugar, glucose, honey and water in a pot and stir it on a low heat until the sugar dissolves
Bring to the boil on a medium heat. You might need to brush the sides of the pot with some water if there are any sugar crystals sticking to the edge. if any of these fall into the mix, they will seed the syrup with crystals and it will seize up instead of boiling freely
The syrup will start to look lovely and clear and deepen in colour. Watch it carefully to make sure it doesn't burn, but don't stir it. I know it's tempting, but if there are any stray sugar crystals stuck on the bottom or anything it will all go wrong. Just leave it be.
Bring the syrup up to about 140* on a sugar thermometer, or until it reaches 'crack' stage. What's that you ask, it's when you drop a little of the syrup into some cold water and it instantly goes hard and any little strands 'crack' and snap when bitten into for testing.
Start whisking the egg whites, and when they reach peaks SLOWLY drizzle in the syrup. If you just dump it in it will cook the egg whites in yucky clumps instead of whipping into lovely billowy clouds of confection.
Quickly switch the whisk to a paddle attachment, then continue beating for a few minutes until it forms stiff peaks
Slowly mix in the almonds
Scrape all the mix from the bowl and into the lined tray. It's very stiff and I found it easier to use a hard edged scraper to help me
Smooth down the top, or roll gently to flatten. I added some leftover almonds and pressed them down to look pretty- unfortunately I just tipped the container of nuts onto my nougat without checking for any little odds and ends of messy bits, oops!
Allow the nougat to harden up and set at room temperature for a few hours
Carefully tip the tray out then cut into sices using a very nice sharp knife, or saw through it with a serrated knife if that's easier
Store at room temperature in an airtight container, for a couple of weeks- if you can resist it! I had to put strict rationing in force so it didn't get snaffled up out of hand!
I was pretty happy with the way this turned out, there are also so many variations on the basic recipe to play around with. I'd like to try a dark chocolate and cherry mix, and think I'll have a tinker with a violet and blueberry variation as well.
So Dear Readers, do you like nougat and have you a sweet or savoury kind of tooth?
March 23, 2012
I'd much rather brunch than breakfast.
I need a hot cup of Earl Gray as soon as I get out of bed, then another to sip as contemplate the day ahead- but I'm just not ready for food until after an hour or so.
I'd much rather something substantial and savory than some cold cereal or a muesli bar, and anything with bacon will help sustain me well until dinner time.
With an Easter Brunch coming up and zucchini and mint vying with each other for garden domination outside my door, I sipped away at my first cup of tea for the day and slowly pieced together this recipe.
It's not too tricky for the early morning- just lots of grating, it's not lactose free- but I can handle the goat and sheep halloumi, it tastes good and gives me an excuse to fry some bacon to go along with it- Perfect!
I sipped away at my second cup of tea as I grated and beat, mixed and folded, and in about 10 minutes had these little lovelies ready to go. I threw on some bacon, tossed some tomatoes, drizzled some oil....
and sat down to a leisurely lunch with a third cup of tea. Ahhhh...
Perfect start to the day!
Halloumi Mint and Zucchini Fritters
1/2 cup gluten free SR Flour
1/3 cup lactose free Milk
2 Eggs- separated
1/2 cup Zucchini - coarsely shredded
1/2 cup Halloumi Cheese - coarsely shredded
1/4 cup Mint - finely cut
1 Lemon- finely grated rind and good squeeze of juice
1 tb good Olive Oil
1 clove Garlic - finely chopped
Once you've shredded your zucchini, give it a good squeeze to remove as much of its liquid as you can to avoid soggy fritters. A surprising amount will come out, and your fritters will be grateful you went to all the extra trouble.
Put the egg yolks, milk and oil in a bowl and give them a good whisk.
Add in the flour and mix until smooth,
Then add in the cheese, mint, zucchini, garlic, lemon rind and squeeze of juice
Taste for seasoning, but don't forget the cheese is pretty salty
Whisk the egg whites separately until they are softly standing up, then add about a third of them to the other mixture and stir well to combine and lighten the batter
Carefully fold in the remaining egg whites so the batter is soft and fluffy
Place heaped tablespoons onto a greased pan on a medium heat. Cook until bubbles form, then flip and cook until the fritter bounces back slightly when pushed with a finger
I served my fritters for brunch drizzled with a lovely greek olive oil and some fresh tomatoes tossed with extra shredded mint and some bacon on the side to keep my strength up.
So Dear Readers, what's your favourite brunch dish and are you doing anything special for Easter?
March 16, 2012
Nothing like a challenge to get my creative cheffing ideas going, and I do believe my new pie dish is issuing one!
I saw it the other day and just had to buy it. It's made of enamel, and came as a set with a little pastry brush and a ceramic pie funnel. I can forsee lots of happy pie making days with this little lovely indeed!
The pie funnel is a terrific way to avoid a soggy pastry top. It has little legs and is hollow, which allows it to hold the crust up without sagging, and allows steam to escape venting it outside so moisture doesn't build up underneath.
(Please excuse my fingernails, Dear Readers, I had been blackberry picking and couldn't scrub out all the stubborn juice stains!)
What pie to make? I didn't really want to do a blackberry pie, as I had other plans for those lovelies, and insted went with a savoury pie for our dinner. Cider Chicken Pie.
Lots of chunky bits of meat, some veggies, sweetness from the cider and a zing from some mustard. Perfect!
I have to admit I cheated a little. My arms just aren't up to making my own pastry yet, so I used a frozen gluten free Rough Puff. I won't state the brand as I'd had it in the freezer for waaay too long and it was very dried out and freezer-burnt. I'm so happy to have some great manufacturers looking after us InTolerants that I don't want people to judge thier products for my mistakes.
But it still tasted good!
Just a word on my choice of chicken:
I always choose thigh fillets over breast fillets for my family. The meat is tastier, juicier and works much better for a dish like this. I actually never buy breast fillets, I don't see the point, I just find the thighs better and as a bonus even a dollar or two cheaper. That's just a personal choice though, I also hate drumsticks, but love wings!
Chicken Cider Pie
700 grm Chicken Thigh Fillets
375ml Dry Apple Cider
1 nice fat Leek
1/4 bunch of Celery
1/4 cup Gluten free Flour
1/3 cup lactose free Cream
2 Tab Mustard
Several cloves of Garlic
Bunch of Parsley
Fresh ground Pepper
Chop the thigh fillets into nice decent chunks, you want something to sink your teeth into- not just sauce.
Slice the leek fairly thinly into rounds and the celery into smallish cubes, then sweat them and the garlic down in a little oil until nice and soft and sweet. Remove from pan and set aside
Add a slug of oil to the pan, then seal the chicken off well
Add in the flour and mustard and stir around to coat the chicken. Cook it off for a minute or two while stirring to make sure it doesn't stick
Pour in the cider and mix it through to form the sauce, make sure you scrape the bottom of the pan well to get up all the yummy brown bits
Tip in the cream, and let the sauce bubble away and thicken into yumminess. Check for seasoning, I didn't include salt in the recipe as I find the mustard can be quite salty, but it's up to you and your taste buds
Mix the veggies back through, allow to cool, then stir in the chopped parsley
yes, I did forget that bit, but don't worry, I scooped all the filling back out of the dish and added it through. I knew it would be missing the earthy green note to ground the flavours if I left the parsely out.
Place the pie funnel in the middle of the greased pie dish, then spoon the filling all around
Roll out your pastry to fit the top of the pie dish, making sure you press the edges down firmly to seal it well. Decorate with any scraps to make your pie beautiful and let your imagination fly
Brush your lovely creation with an egg wash to add gloss and colour as it bakes, and sprinkle with some sesame or poppy seeds for a bit of textural crunch- and because it looks good too!
Bake your pie in a fairly hot oven , until the filling is hot and bubbly and the crust is nice and crispy. Mine took about 45 minutes.
Serve up your pie with some mashed potatoes to help soak up any yummy sauce and a few more veggies.
Overall, I thought my pie turned out very well indeed, and hopefully lived up to my pie dish challenge. Oh My!
So Dear Readers, do you prefer the chicken breasts or chicken thighs, or any other particular cut the most?
March 11, 2012
I've certainly cooked with quinoa before.
It's not the weired, way-out, freaky health food it once was, but now is sold in nearly all supermarkets and features in a recipe or two in most mainstream cooking magazines.
Touted as a SuperFood, quinoa is certainly gaining popularity, but its gluten-free veggie-sourced perfect protein is something the Incas knew about a few thousand years ago before being vigorously suppressed during the Spanish Occupation while being forced to grow gluten-full wheat instead.
But I've never cooked with already cooked quinoa before.
The idea intrigued me and the thought of a cake that's high in protein, low GI, includes fruit, and made with a super food was just way too hard to resist, surely all the good bits outweigh the bad bits? It may actually be bad for my health not to eat this cake.
Don't you agree Readers Dear?
I gleaned this recipe straight from the pages of the March issue Australian Gourmet Traveller. Its a lovely recipe, but one that needs a bit of fiddling about really. I don't mean to be disrespectful to its creator, but if I make it again it will have a few changes.
1. dried apricots instead of fresh
2. no oven roasting, and instead of sticky wine I'd just use straight orange juice with maybe a spoon of honey and plump the dried apricots in the microwave
3. cooking the quinoa in the rice cooker with orange juice or apricot juice for an extra boost
4. baked a bit lower for a bit longer. My cakes had a bit of a chewy edge that I actually really enjoyed, but could probably be off putting to others with crunchy odds and ends of quinoa grains getting stuck in their teeth.
I also found that although the recipe stated that it served 8 using 200ml darioles, I had enough mix for 12 using 250ml. Perhaps I whipped my eggs and sugar longer? Anyway, I found them nice and light this way and plenty enough for a single serve.
Roast Apricot, Almond and Quinoa Cakes
This recipe is from the March 2012 issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller.
550 gm (2½ cups) raw caster sugar
1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
16 small apricots, halved
60 ml dessert wine
Juice and thinly peeled rind of 1 orange and ½ lemon
90 gm (½ cup) white quinoa, rinsed
200 gm butter, melted and cooled
260 gm (1¾ cups) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
60 gm flaked almonds, plus extra for scattering
Preheat oven to 200C.
Scatter 220gm sugar and vanilla seeds in the base of a roasting pan large enough to fit apricots snugly in a single layer. Arrange apricots cut-side down in roasting pan, pressing into sugar, then turn over.
Drizzle with dessert wine and citrus juices, scatter with citrus rinds and roast, spooning pan juices over apricots a few times during cooking, until golden and tender (20-25 minutes).
Transfer half the apricots and 40ml pan juices to a food processor, process to a purée and set aside (reserve remaining apricots and syrup).
Meanwhile, bring quinoa, vanilla bean and 250ml water to the boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, reduce heat to medium and simmer until liquid evaporates and quinoa is tender (12-15 minutes).
Drain through a fine sieve to remove any remaining liquid, then spread on a tray to cool and dry (15-20 minutes; discard vanilla bean).
Preheat oven to 180C.
Whisk eggs and remaining sugar in an electric mixer until pale and fluffy (6-8 minutes)
Add butter and whisk to combine.
Sieve over flour and baking powder, stir to combine,
Stir in apricot purée, almonds and quinoa
Spoon into 12 buttered and floured 250ml metal dariole moulds, smoothing tops.
Scatter with extra almonds, bake until cakes are golden and centres spring back when lightly pressed (20-25 minutes).
Cool in tins for 10 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature with roast apricots and syrup.
So Dear Readers, have you come across any recipes that it would be just plain wrong not to make? And do you ever simplify a recipe to suit yourself too?