January 31, 2013
I love playing with new ingredients
Trying out tastes and textures, seeing how they work and what flavour they bring to the table.
You can just imagine then, how excited I was to be contacted by lovely Tania http://www.mykitchenstories.com.au/ on behalf of the great guys from Lario International
http://www.lario.com.au/index.php?osCsid=449aa484f9fe5c78e0a1d20e841daa95 with the offer to try out some of the great new nut products that they have introduced to their range of artisan food items, sourced from some of the very best suppliers in Europe. Lucky me!
I recieved some lovely organic Lara Walnuts- an heirloom variety with a light coloured skin and sweet taste; also some Lara Walnut Flour with a nice silky texture; and some Piedmont Hazelnut Flour with a nice toasty colour and amazing depth of flavour.
To start things off I turned to the hazelnut flour for my first testing, leaving the walnuts for another day and another recipe- stay tuned!
I didn't really know much about nut flour- ground nuts or nut meal is something I use on a regular basis though, so I thought I should do my due diligence and find out. Enter Mr Google... and a whole heap of confusion!
I found out that the terms Nut Meal and Nut Flour seem to be used interchangeably in a lot of reipes and web sites although they are really two totally different products. Nearly all the recipes I found though called for what I call for nut Meal, with so called nut Flour sometimes just made from nuts that have being blanched first before grinding. Totally different from true Nut Flour indeed.
They are so different in character, that to help things out I thought I'd do a little Show-And-Tell about my findings:
Hazelnut MEAL or GROUND Hazelnuts are made from ground up hazlenuts- that's it, nothing added or taken away. Skins usually left on, and all natural oils intact. Nice and mild tasting.
Hazelnut FLOUR is the by-product from hazelnut oil production. It can also be known as 'defatted' flour as the oil has already been extracted from the nuts before drying and grinding. Much tastier than the meal with a lovely toasted flavour, lighter and dryer in texture too. Not as fine as 'regular' flour though.
I really wanted to see how the hazelnut flour worked in baking, but didn't want to screw up a whole heap of ingredients if I was on the wrong track. The best way to do this was to take a pseudo-scientific approach with an experiment of a nice basic butter cake- one with hazelnut meal, one with hazelnut flour and one with gluten free flour as a control. I bet the guys at MythBusters would be proud of me!
Exactly the same except for the flour content, ready to go:
This is the end result:
As you can see, the Nut Meal cake is very moist and dense even sinking on top a little, the Nut Flour cake is a lot lighter indeed and not so wet and has a better crumb and firmer crust, and as expected the gluten free flour cake is very light and fluffy.
I don't think the two products could be substituted for each other very well at all, the added moisture and heaviness of the meal would be a real problem while the nut flour is tastier and dryer overall
I loved the toasty taste from the Nut Flour, but it still needed a bit of lift.....
Perfect solution- mix the Nut Flour and gluten free flour together!
Hazelnut Flour Buttercake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
3/4 cup Hazlenut Flour
3/4 cup gluten free Flour
1 cup Castor Sugar
125g Butter or lactose free substitute
1/2 cup lactose free Milk or substitute
2 tsp gluten free Baking Powder
2 tsp Vanilla Extract
For the Buttercream recipe, check out this older post.
For the chocolate taste I added in some dark chocolate to the milk mix while it was still warm and stirred it through to melt nicely
For the cake you simply place all the ingredients into a large bowl
Now mix it for a few minutes until it's nice and fluffy and light.
How easy is that, right?
Pop it into a greased and lined pan, then bake at about 160*C for 70 minutes or so, or until the top springs back when you touch it lightly, and a skewer comes out clean from the middle. The nut flour gives it a nice dark colour so just be a bit careful and don't think that the cake is ready as soon as it's nice and lightly golden
Let it cool completely on a rack
Due to a baking-pan-mishap over Christmas, the pan I used was really a bit too big for this cake. Not wanting a flat pancakey type of thing, I solved my problem by splitting the cake into layers and slathering on plenty of buttercream frosting. I ask you, is there any problem that buttercream frosting can't fix? :)
TaaDaaa! They never need know....
This turned out to be a perfectly wonderful cake with loads of hazelnut flavour and light and fluffy to boot. The buttercream frosting was nice and silky without being overwhelming and it was certainly rich indeed!
A chocolate ganache would also be good- if you served smaller slices! But this was fine and really let the taste of the hazelnuts shine through.
I found the Hazelnut flour to be a great baking ingredient, adding loads of flavour and colour to an otherwise quite plain cake. It does need the 'regular' gluten free flour to carry it though- just for the lightness and lift that baking so often needs.
I'm going to have fun playing around with this lovely nut flour and making more adventurous recipes than this, and have a couple of other nut products to review for Lario as well- so Dear Readers, Stay Tuned!
So Dear Readers, have you ever tried Nut Flour before, and do you have any recipe hints?
Nuts and Nut Flour supplied by Lario International - Thanks guys!
January 22, 2013
It's that time of year again, where despite the HOT, miserable weather we've been having, the vegetable garden is showering us with bounty almost faster than we can eat it
I know the Northern Hemisphere is freezing, while we in Australia are battling record searing heat and multiple devastating bushfires. We all have our own particular climate problems and I hope you are all safe and well, but with weeks here where the thermometer has rarely dropped from the thirties and longed-for-rain promised but rarely forthcoming, it's a bit hard to work up enough enthusiasm to eat- let alone cook, a nice meal
Some nights the less cooking I do the better! No oven or grill to add heat to the kitchen, no standing over a smoking hot BBQ plate.... just a simple pot of hot water is all that's needed to make a fresh, tasty, healthy meal- with a little help from my friends in the veggie garden
This is a recipe I've been playing around with for years- if you can even call it a 'real' recipe!
A packet of gluten free pasta, some garden veggies sliced then quickly blanched to wilt just a little, but retaining texture, and simply dressed with basil and olive oil. So simple, but oh so delicious.
For more of a substantial meal for the carnivores, a handful of leftover cooked chicken, or shredded ham or salami could certainly be added- but I like the pure simplicity of this dish and it certainly lets the veggies be the star
1 packet of gluten free Spaghetti (I prefer the San Remo brand)
A few freshly plucked Zucchini, Carrots and Tomatoes
(you can use whatever is at hand- nice little peas, some sliced fresh beans, capsicums.. etc)
Lovely Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground Pepper
Also have at the ready a colander with plenty of drain holes, and one that will fit the whole lot of pasta, and more, in at once
First things first- put a large pot of water on to boil, this takes the longest to prepare out of all the recipe ingredients. I had plenty of time to scrub and prep and slice and dice everything else while the pot boiled, and the pasta cooked. Perfect timing actually!
Once it comes to a fast rolling boil, season it generously with salt and pop in the pasta to cook
While this is doing it's thing, prepare the veggies.
The ideal is to have lovely long strips of vegetable to mimic the shape and size of the spaghetti. I love using this great julienne peeler I have, it makes perfect little strings with no more effort than peeling. They are available at just about every kitchenware shop and every Asian grocer that I've ever walked into. If you don't have one of these, and don't want to muck about with knife work, just use your ordinary peeler to get lovely long strips and just apply a bit more pressure than usual to make the pieces a bit thicker.
If I was using flat strips of veggies, I would probably change my choice of pasta to fettuccine just to keep a uniform look. It might sound silly, but pretty food is even tastier!
Once you've finished with the zucchini and carrots ( I know they're not orange, but sadly they're not the pretty purple that was advertised on the seed packet either) pop the strips into the bottom of the colander and place it in the sink for ready draining
Now for the dressing:
Chop the tomatoes as finely or as chunky as you like- I prefer nice and dainty to match the daintiness of the thin spaghetti. Tear or chop the basil leaves, add a good pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper for bite, and a good glug or two of lovely olive oil.
I have a stash of flavoured olive oils for dressings, and just happen to have a Basil infused one in my cupboard, otherwise a nice grassy EVOO would have worked well too
When the spaghetti is done, immediately pour the whole pot directly over the vegetable strips in the colander and drain really well.
Give it a few good shakes, but don't let it just sit or the veggies are in danger of overcooking and losing their lovely freshness
Quickly tip on all the dressing ingredients and stir it all through until beautifully mixed together and glossy from the oil
Check for seasoning, and serve immediately drizzled with a little more of that lovely olive oil- remember it's good for you!
See, I promised you that this was a quick, easy and tasty dish- didn't I?
Barely any cooking for these hot, hot days, or when you're in a huge rush but still want a light, healthy dinner. What could be better than this?
So Dear Readers, is it hot or cold in your part of the world, and do you have a veggie garden too?
January 13, 2013
Have you ever had someone spoil a favourite dish?
One you really, really love, but for whatever reason has had the joy taken out of it through a bad experience, nasty comment, or just plain guilt tripped for you?
This is what happened to me with my White Cut Chicken
I used to make this all the time, it's easy, delicious, and very versatile, and appeared at my table again and again....until that fateful day.....
A few years ago, my Grandmother passed away. She just stopped- suddenly, but at 92 she had had a good run, and had enjoyed relatively good health (until that point, obviously). Her death certificate actually stated cause of death as Old Age, apparently quite a rarity!
Anyway, we held a lovely service commemorating her life, and of course a wake afterwards that my family and I catered for with lots and lots of food- including my White Cut Chicken.
We had just sat down to eat when a well-meaning but nervous friend of the family joined us. She perhaps felt we were struggling for conversation at the table, and after a couple of false starts or two started to talk about the colour of corpses, and asked what shade exactly, was my grandmother when she died, and was buried.
I glanced across at my sister, then my dad, and we all paused with our mouths full and our forks halfway to our mouths loaded up with clammy, gray-ish, fleshy, jellied skin chicken. After an almighty gulp, I was able to swallow down my current mouthful and suggest that this was certainly not a sensitive subject for lunch... but I could no longer eat my chicken.
I knew it was tasty, I knew it was juicy, I knew it was cooked silky soft, but I could no longer see past the clammy skin and not-so-appetising-anymore colour. It was spoilt for me now.
This had been an extremely hot Summer.
Temperatures staying in the very high 30's for a couple of weeks has not been encouraging to slaving over a hot stove to cook dinner, so I searched for some of my best keep-the-kitchen-cool meals and thought about my White Cut Chicken.
Could I do it? I knew it was a ridiculous prejudice, but it had really stuck in my head. What the hey, I decided to face my fears anyway and cook it just to prove I could, and there where were plenty of other things in the fridge if I balked at the last minute :)
So I did it! I cooked it, cooled it, rubbed it and (I admit squeamishly) ate it. And....... it was as moist and tender and flavoursome as I remembered and so much more.
The curse is finally lifted. I can enjoy my yummy chicken as often as I want and haven't let that silly conversation scar me for life anymore.
I'm so glad, and I bet my Grandmother would have been proud!
This is a very lovely, simple meal, of cold poached chicken with fresh Asian flavours, rubbed with soy and sesame. With a side of rice cooked in the chicken stock, this is a great meal to beat the heat.
It's another recipe that doesn't really need exact measurements or even ingredients. Just go with what's on hand and what flavour profile you like best.
White Cut Chicken
One Raw Chicken
Soy Sauce (gluten free)
Prepare your stock ingredients by getting about a thumb sized piece of ginger, a few garlic cloves and spring onions, a chilli and the coriander roots and then giving them all a good bash with the back of your knife or a rolling pin, to bruise them all well and release their flavours
Rinse the chicken inside and out, and remove any excess fat from the skin near the cavity entrance.
Stuff a bit of all the ingredients and the coriander tops into the cavity of the chicken.
Don't put too much in, or pack it tightly though. The hot stock needs to be able to move about freely to cook the bird thoroughly and evenly
Pop the rest of the stock flavourings and some cold water, into a pot large enough to fully submerge your chicken.
Bring to the boil
Carefully place the chicken into the pot. Make sure it's submerged and the cavity is totally full of hot water. Bring back to the boil, then immediately clap the lid on and turn the heat right off completely
Leave the chicken alone.
Go do what you need to do for about 45 minutes, then come back and bring the pot to the boil again.
This time I make sure that the stock in the cavity of the chicken is nice and hot by swishing it around and refilling it with fresh heat.
Pop the lid back on and enjoy yourself for another 45 minutes or so.
After this amount of time the chicken should be subtlety flavoured and fully cooked through.
Plunge it straight into very cold or iced water and leave it to cool. This will create a nice firm flesh with a lovely layer of jelly under the skin.
Dry it off, then I like to rub the skin with soy sauce and sesame oil to give a nice sheen and a bit of colour to the otherwise pale skin tone that I suppose is a bit Zombie like to some of us with over active imaginations :)
Save the cooking stock for making rice later, and refrigerate it immediately.
While the chicken is cooking or cooling, render the oil out of the chicken fat by putting it into a warm pan and leaving it to slowly release. The volume of oil that you get is quite remarkable adds a delicious flavour to the rice dish
In a pan- I use my rice cooker, place your raw rice and the chicken grease. You can use vegetable oil if you prefer, but the depth of flavour will be sadly lacking. Coat the rice thoroughly over heat until they are nice and glossy and starting to turn translucent.
Pop in the required amount of liquid to rice, using the leftover chicken liquid for loads of flavour.
Cook as per usual.
I like to serve my White Cut Chicken cold, but with nice hot rice. I love the different temperatures and it seems to make the meal more satisfying and less 'salad-like' to BigJ who prefers a Real Meal at dinner time
Drizzle the chicken with a bit more soy sauce and sesame oil for seasoning, and have some lovely hot chilli sauce for dipping and some lovely crunchy cucumber for cooling.
A perfect mix of fire and ice, warm and cold, salad and meal!
So Dear Readers, have you ever had a meal spoilt for you, and how do you handle insensitive-but-well-meaning people?
January 4, 2013
Happy New Year Everyone!
Well, we see the back end of another Christmas, and the start of a whole new cycle of seasons, celebrations and blogging all over again.
I hope you all had a wonderful time and got a well deserved break/rest/holiday and that you got some lovely goodies/yummies/pressies/jewelry under the tree.
For my first post this year, I thought I'd jump back in with Celia's In My Kitchen Roundup and give you a glimpse of some goodies I got under my tree this year.
Check out what's going on in some of the blogisphere's best kitchens by clicking on this link:
In My Kitchen.... there are thankfully no more leftovers from our Christmas feasting!
A platter of roasts- Chicken, Turkey, Lamb and Pork. Enjoyed hot, cold, on sandwiches, reheated in gravy, turned into stews, and the last few bits frozen as Ready-to-go-tv-dinners with veggies for extra busy days
Not quite as exciting as this though, with homegrown peas and carrots and super crispy duck fat potatoes
In My Kitchen... are some gruesome new cookie cutters, maybe I'll use them for Valentines Day?
In My Kitchen... are some great number cutters and stamps. I've had to promise to make a Christmas Cookie Countdown for next year!
In My Kitchen... is a great new cookbook from one of our most talented, passionate chefs, Kylie Kwong. Many great recipes here indeed
Also some great DIY tips for everything from churning cultured butter, to making my own cured ham for next Christmas
And some awesome ideas for where I'd like to go for my next vacation. I could quite happily eat my way from China to Vietnam for a month or so...
Or perhaps this Fantasy Land of Macarons takes reservations?
Anyone for a Gin and tonic macaron, or how about a Fig,burnt honey and red wine?
In My Kitchen... is also my pressie from BigJ, a Cuisinart Ice Cream maker complete with it's own compressor so we can have lactose free ice cream whenever the fancy takes us!
Very fancy-pantsy indeed!
We've already tried a couple of variations, but I think we need to tweak it just a little bit more to get the consistency I'm after. The taste though, is sublime!
And just to prove that Christmas is indeed the season of miracles:
In My Kitchen... is BigJ doing the washing up!
Greater love hath no man...than one hoping for homemade ice cream on a hot Summer day :)
So my Dear Readers, did you have a nice break and did you receive anything special under your tree this Christmas?