Monday, November 24, 2014

Margaret River Gourmet Escape

Cape Naturaliste
This past weekend was the Margaret River Gourmet Escape. An annual food festival that consists of two days of "Village" Life - hundreds of stalls, exhibitors and presentations at the Leeuwin Estate Winery, as well as a host of "Satellite Events" over 3 days. These satellite events are mainly meals hosted by various locations in the Southwest. Chefs from all over the world come to take part in this Food and Wine Extravaganza.

The Gourmet Village at Leeuwin Estate Winery

There were so many events I wanted to go to, and so many events that having seen photos, I am disappointed that I didn't get to. But given logistics and funds, I limited myself to one satellite event, and a day at the Gourmet Village. The choice of Satellite Event was a no-brainer for me - From Catch to Cape, a seafood feast at Cape Naturaliste Winery, with chefs from Stokehouse. If you have read this blog often, you'll know how much I love Cape Naturaliste wines. This was a meal I had to attend.

A girlfriend and I headed down to Molloy Island on Thursday night, spent Friday wine shopping and eating our way around the South West. I picked up some Venison Chorizo, some Margaret River Dairy cheeses and wines for both the weekend, and to stock the fridge back home. And stopped off at Boranup Gallery for coffee and cake!

Friday my husband came down straight from work, then he played taxi for our lunch on Saturday. Dropping us off at Quindalup Boat Ramp early in the morning, then picking us up from the winery after we'd eaten and drunk to our hearts content. Our day consisted of a Whale Watching Cruise, followed by a Seafood Meal cooked by Chef Oliver Gould and a team from Stokehouse paired with Cape Naturaliste wines. I thought he got the raw end of the deal, just being taxi. But he in the meantime had himself the degustation at the recent WA Good Food Guide Regional Restaurant of the Year Award winner - Wills Domain!

Me and my partner in food on the boat!
Blue Swimmer Crab Tart, Eggplant Puree, Salmon Roe, Baby Chervil
Kingfish Crudo, cucumber, mussel vinaigrette
Baked Scallops, citrus sabayon, pistachios, fennel cream
BBQ Gummy Shark, green chili and ginger salsa verde 
Baked Dhufish Fillets, tomato, red onion and caper sauce, green beans, kipfler potatoes in anchovy butter
Chef Oliver Gould and Owner Craig Brent-White

Sunday we ate our way around the Gourmet Village, and watched several of the presentations. A highlight for me was watching Rick Stein show us how to prepare and squid, and take the meat out of a lobster. Rick Stein's Seafood Odyssey was one of the first cooking shows I ever watched and he is such a charming man in real life.

Crispy soft shell crab tortilla with smokey corn salsa, chipotle mayonnaise - Pork shoulder cooked in aBahen & Co. Chocolate sauce with adobo and jalapeno chilis with avocado salsa
Smoked Ocean Trout with green mango salad, nim jam 
Rick Stein
Chef Sam Ward from El Publico teaching us tortilla skills

For all of my photos from my time away, check out my Facebook Album

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce

Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce
Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce

Sometimes, you have multiple things to celebrate in a short space of time. Like having an award winning Chocolate Beer Jam. Or having it confirm that your recipe will be included in a cookbook. Or having a birthday. And all of those things individually might require a toast…but together, they definitely do. And sometimes, you somehow are left with a half bottle of bubbles when such an occasion arises. I am a little funny about drinking bubbles after the day I open them. Even though we have an incredible re-corking stopper, it’s just something I don’t enjoy as much after the fact. And so I was left with a little champagne (in reality, sparkling wine, but I’m gonna be fancy and call it champagne) that I couldn’t bear to waste. Well, cooking with it seems like the best use!

I’d seen (and eaten) quite a few champagne cupcakes in the last few months. Seems like quite the trend in Perth at the moment! But I wanted dinner, not cupcakes!

My next thought went to my gin and crab pasta, and then to the good deal of seafood pastas with vodka sauces over the years and thought that a seafood pasta sauce was definitely the go. But, I wanted the flavour of the champagne to shine through. It’s not as strong a flavour as the gin, so I didn’t want a thick creamy sauce, so I went with a buttery base. I added some delicious Shark Bay Prawns, and some finely sliced yellow squash for a mellow, summery addition. All complimentary, but subtle flavours. And here’s the kicker. Vanilla. Adding a vanilla bean to the reducing champagne takes this from tasty to next level delicious. It adds a sweetness that you can’t quite put your finger on, but you’d immediately notice it’s absence. Trust me on this. Then you’ll probably want to open another bottle of bubbles to drink with the dish. And you might end up with a little leftover…

This is a very simple dish with very few ingredients, so it pays for them to be good quality. I recommend using fresh spaghetti if you can, and although my champagne was day old, it was still good champagne. You can use anything you would ordinarily drink. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but given the scope of sweetness and dryness you get in sparklings, make it something you enjoy drinking.

Oh, and the last note I will add is that this dish comes together really quickly once you start cooking. I’d say it’s maybe a 15 minute meal. So prep all your ingredients first, get your pasta water boiling (especially if you have dried pasta) and then begin cooking. I used salted butter as that’s what I had, so I needed less salt than you will if you use unsalted.

Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce
Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce
Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce
Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce

Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce 

1 ½ cups champagne (sparkling wine)
2 shallots, finely diced
3 small cloves garlic, minced
1 vanilla bean
125g butter, cubed.
Salt and pepper
500g fresh pasta
250g peeled prawns
4 yellow squash, very finely sliced
Chopped parsley to serve
Red chilli flakes (optional)
More champagne to drink with it!

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.

In a large sautee pan, pour in the champagne, shallots and garlic and a little pepper. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the pan, then throw the pod in too. Bring to the boil over a medium heat and keep it simmering until it’s reduced by half. Add the butter, a few cubes at a time, and whisk well after each addition to blend into the sauce. Stir well for a further 1-2 minutes to thicken the sauce, then discard the vanilla pod and add the squash slices and prawns. Check for seasoning.

Put the fresh pasta into the boiling water.

Stir the prawns and squash into the sauce well, coating in the sauce and allowing to cook through. 2-3 minutes. At this point, your pasta should also be cooked, using tongs, pull the spaghetti into the sauce, allowing some (not too much) cooking water to come with it. Stir well to coat all the noodles in the sauce and blend the cooking liquid in.

Serve with some chopped parsley and some chilli flakes, if you’d like

Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce
Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce
Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce
Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce
Sparkling Meals - Prawn and Squash Spaghetti with Champagne Sauce

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts

Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts
Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts
My mother in law has a crazy prolific macadamia tree. It’s so awesome. She gave it a huge haircut a few months back, and just from the branches she cut off, Lance and I salvaged a whole ice cream container of macadamia nuts. I’ve got a few macadamia recipes coming up over the next few weeks as I’ve tried to create some dishes that do these delicious, buttery nuts some justice. In the meantime, we’ve just planted a baby macadamia tree in our yard. I can’t wait til we start getting our own. On a side note, our mango tree has just started flowering. I was concerned because the first mango flower photos were being posted on Instagram by other Perth folk almost two months ago! I was worried that after our haul of 50 mangoes last year, this year our tree was going to give up on us!

Now to today’s recipe. This recipe can be made as a big pie, but mini desserts are always more fun, yeah? I like making small desserts for gatherings, rather than a big cake. Little things you can pick up and eat with your fingers. No knives and plates and whatnot. And often I’ll make a few things so you can sample all the desserts without feeling both ridiculously full, and having to do that awkward ‘just a *teeny* piece please’ thing…with accompanying hand gestures to indicate how teeny you want it. I have made these gorgeous little tarts a few times now and they never fail to impress. They are so moreish. The perfect mix of salty and sweet. And the macadamias add such a decadent richness to the whole situation.

 The base itself can be made just as biscuits, or like this, pressed into a pie shell. It’s a really simple food processor dough made using pretzels and macadamias. Not overly sweet, but delicious nonetheless. The filling is an adaption of a recipe I was given to test for the Recipes and Ramblings Cookbook – and it’s a basic caramel panna cotta. So likewise, the filling can be served by itself as a panna cotta. Together, their forces combine to be a wonderful portable dessert.

They are best made the day of serving, as the base can go a bit soggy (still yummy though!). But remember that the caramel will need about 2-4 hours in the fridge to set. So the base doesn’t soak up too much of the caramel, ensure the biscuit base is cool. And sprinkle the fine sea salt on just before serving, so it doesn’t dissolve and you still get the delightful flakey texture. Then try not to eat all of them before your guests come!

Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts
Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts

Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts

Macadamia Pretzel Base

1 cup macadamias
1 cup pretzels (loaded fairly full)
2 tbsp raw sugar
2 tbsp butter
1 egg

Preheat oven to 175C

Pulse the macadamias, pretzels and sugar in a food processor until fairly fine, but some chunks still remain for texture. Pulse through the butter until well mixed. Then add the egg and process until it comes together into a dough.

Spray mini muffin tins with cooking spray, then press a heaped teaspoon or so into the tin, creating the pie base. As you add the caramel as a liquid, it needs to be a solid base without gaps.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Check around the 7 minute mark. If they have puffed up a lot, gently press back down and finish baking. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts
Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts
Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts

Caramel Filling

330mL cream
85g caster sugar
5 grams leaf gelatin
Fine sea salt flakes

Soak the gelatin leaves in a shallow bowl of cold water.

Place the caster sugar into a large pot over a medium-high heat. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to encourage the sugar to melt. It will become a clear liquid, then leave over the heat and stop stirring until it goes a caramelly golden colour, but watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. 

When it’s golden and it smells caramelly and delicious, carefully pour the cream in. It will spit a bit, so be careful. This will make the caramel turn hard and crunchy. Stir the cream constantly to dissolve the caramel. When all of the caramel is melted back into the cream, gently squeeze the excess water from the gelatin leaves and dissolve them one by one into the cream. Stir for a further minute then strain through a fine sieve into a jug.

Set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes, then carefully fill each tart base as high as you dare. Slide the tray into the fridge to set.

Just before serving, sprinkle a few salt flakes on each tart

P.S. The Beaufort Street Festival is on November 15th where you can buy the Recipes and Ramblings Cookbook!

Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts
Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts
Macadamia Salted Caramel TartsMacadamia Salted Caramel Tarts
Macadamia Salted Caramel Tarts