Showing posts with label inspiration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label inspiration. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Restaurant Inspired - Sweet Potato and Coconut Gnocchi with Cashew Basil Crema

I recently had a lunch date with my husband at Solomon’s CafĂ© in Highgate. It was on the to-visit list for a while and the menu item that most put it there was the famed sweet potato and coconut gnocchi. When we got there, we ordered out meals with a side of sweet potato and coconut gnocchi. And we were told…it’s actually beetroot gnocchi now. They haven’t been able to source any organic sweet potatoes for a while, so they’ve had to amend it. The whole restaurant is organic (and gluten and dairy free), so obviously this is an issue for them. And the gnocchi was soooo good. Everything was delicious, but the gnocchi was definitely the stand-out.

The next morning I was trying to work out what to make for breakfast. The idea of toast wasn’t thrilling me, so in spite of telling Lance that I was going to make some form of ratatouille with the almost-too-ripe tomatoes in the fridge…I wasn’t really in the mood. So I still made the ratatouille (which we had for lunch), and I thought I’d give the sweet potato gnocchi a go.

This isn’t gnocchi in the traditional boiled pasta route, I just fried the pieces until crispy. And I already had some cashews soaking, so I made a kale, basil and cashew crema to go with it. To make it more breakfast-y, I served it with an egg and a few zucchini chips as more of a garnish. To keep the dish quick, I microwaved the sweet potato instead of roasting it.

All in all, not a bad breakfast – and it all came together before 8:30am! Unfortunately, it was too early for me to bother with many photos, so there’s only a couple of the finished product.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Gnocchi with Cashew Basil Crema.
(serves 2)
1 medium sweet potato
3 tbsp coconut flour (depending on how big your sweet potato is)
Pinch sea salt
Pinch black pepper
pinch cinnamon
¼ tsp sweet paprika
Coconut oil for frying.

2 handfuls cashews, soaked overnight
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 kale leaves, stripped off the rib
Big handful basil
Big handful parsley
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
Water for thinning

Prick the sweet potato a few times, put in a glass bowl, cover with a piece of paper towel and microwave for around 6 minutes until soft. Set aside to cool.

In a food processor, blend the all the ingredients except the olive oil and water. Pulse at first, scrape down the sides, then run on low, adding the oil and water to reach your desired consistency. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary.

When the sweet potato is cool enough to handle, peel and discard the skin. Mash well with a fork. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon and sweet paprika, and mix through with the fork. Add coconut flour 1 tbsp at a time until it makes a dough. I only needed 3 tbsp for my sweet potato.

Scoop teaspoonsful of dough and roll into gnocchi shapes, flatten slightly with the tines of the fork to shape.

Heat a nob of coconut oil in a fry pan to medium high heat. Fry the gnocchi pieces for a few minutes until golden – around 3 minutes, then flip over and cook that side. Don’t crowd the pan. I did mine in 2 loads, moving the first to a plate in the microwave to keep warm.

Drizzle the sauce onto your serving plates, then top with sweet potato gnocchi.

Serve with an egg if you’d like.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Warm Hummus Mash Za’atar Spiced Popcorn

Since first making my Yummy Chicken with popcorn, I grew quite fond of using popcorn as a ‘garnish’ on savoury dishes or as an addition to salads. In fact, Lance told me off for writing that the popcorn on the Yummy Chicken was optional – he thought it made the meal special. Something about the presentation as well as the texture addition is really fun in an otherwise everyday meal. I hadn’t done it for a while, when Alejandra posted her Ras El Hanout spiced popcorn. My mind was blown. What a brilliant idea. I already love the popcorn/chocolate combination, this just takes it to a whole new level of awesomeness! Instead of having it as just a snack, I thought I’d like it as a side dish with my dinner. Since I was already planning on having warm hummus with dinner, I thought instead of Ras El Hanout, I’d try more Middle Eastern style spices and went with a Za-atar spice blend that I bought from The Grocer. I really like this blend because I’ve recently discovered the wonders of sumac as a spice and this mix has sumac in it. I then added a little cayenne and extra pepper for a kick – totally optional but I like a bit of heat.

I have become a huge fan of warm hummus since first being served it about 12 months ago. That in itself was a revelation. My favourite dip is also a wonderful mash! Why hadn’t I thought of that? And using tinned chick peas makes it so easy. I like adding cashews instead of tahini because it adds a nice sweet, creaminess which really compliments the warm silky mash. I find tahini can be a bit bitter and prefer it in cold hummus. You do need to soak the cashews overnight to make sure they blend properly.

To balance the heat and vaguely sour taste of the middle eastern spices I wanted a hearty meat and a touch of sweetness. So I served it with lamb rump steak and a fig salad to create that balance. Sadly, the last figs of the season for me, but put to perfect use. The combination of hummus and spiced buttered chocolatey popcorn has been my favourite meal of a long, long time. And I loved standing in the kitchen, eating the leftover popcorn after dinner. This and other spiced popcorn is going to happen. Often.
I try to keep my posts in the order of the dishes I cooked, so when I post them, they are as close to being seasonally pertinent as possible. But whilst I have about 5 posts stockpiled that were cooked and eaten before this dish, I was so blown away by it's deliciousness that I am going to break my rule and let this jump the queue. Make this dish. Now.

Warm Hummus Mash
(serves 3)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tin chick peas, rinsed and drained
2/3 cup cashews, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
Juice from one (small) lemon
1/4 – ½ cup water

In a small saucepan heat olive oil to a low heat and gently cook the garlic with ¼ tsp salt for 5-10 minutes or so until soft, translucent and very aromatic. Do not allow it to colour. Add the cashews and chick peas, stir well then cover and allow to warm through for around 10-15 minutes. The heat should be very low, so it shouldn’t burn, but stir here and there to make sure.

When warm, squeeze the lemon juice over the top and pour everything into a food processor or use a good stick blender if you have it to process to a smooth paste, slowly add some water with the motor running to help the hummus get a creamy, mash like consistency. You could also use milk or cream instead of milk to make it richer, but I think water is fine. Check for seasoning, then pop back in the pot and reheat for a few minutes while you make the popcorn

Za’atar Spiced Popcorn
barely adapted from Always Order Dessert
(makes approx. 3 cups popcorn)
¼ cup popcorn kernels
25g butter (approx.)
1 ½ tsp za’atar spice blend
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
8-10 grinds black pepper
¼ cup dark chocolate chips

Put the popcorn into a brown paper bag, fold the top down a few times to “seal” and put in the microwave for 2-3 minutes on high to pop the kernels. Keep an ear out for the popping to stop, and a nose out to detect it burning.
Put the popped corn into a really large bowl. Melt the butter, pour over the popcorn, then stir to coat. Mix the za’atar spice, sea salt, cayenne and black peppers together, then tip into the bowl and stir really well to coat all the buttered popcorn.

Melt the chocolate chips in a small bowl in the microwave
Serve the mash, tip a generous serving of the popcorn over the top, then drizzle the chocolate over the top of that.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Much Ado About Joss Whedon - Movie Flavoured Ice Cream

I’m a little bit in love with Joss Whedon’s work. Not just Buffy and Angel. Also his work on Toy Story, Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog, the Avengers and what is one of my favourite movies – Cabin in the Woods. When I was in New Orleans last year, I went to an awesome little cocktail bar and played “What’s Your Favourite Cocktail” with the lovely bartender, who made Lance and I the most amazing drinks both classic cocktails and her own concoctions. And we chatted to her for hours about anything and everything. Including about how she’d walked from the Bywater (where she recommended we go for dinner) into the French Quarter – about an hour’s hike - in the heat of July just to watch a screening of Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, before getting there and finding it had been cancelled. I was devastated for her. But so incredibly excited for me. A new Joss movie!

When Cabin in the Woods was screened here, it was only for a week or so and my core Joss-loving friends managed to sync a free evening and went for pizza and watched it. Seeing that we weren’t free for the brief screening time that Much Ado had here, we had to plan a screening party at home.

So in honour of the bartender who first told me about the movie, I started the evening with an Aviation cocktail. Invented in the early 1900’s, it’s sometimes referred to as a “Gin Sour” which for me makes it a perfect little summer cocktail. We then had snacks galore, ordered pizzas for dinner. And for dessert…movie flavoured ice cream. What exactly is “movie flavour”?? Popcorn and malteser. If you haven’t done it before, next time you have hot buttered salty popcorn, add a few maltesers to the top and allow to melt and meld the flavours. So. Good. Any chocolate will do, but the light texture of the maltesers and the crunch makes it a perfect melt option. Given that watching movies is pretty much the only time I eat popcorn, this to me tastes like movies!

I stumbled upon a recipe for salted sweet corn ice cream by my favourite blog and was already excited by the idea of the flavours. Not to mention the fact it was a corn starch mixture, not an egg custard mixture which I am notoriously bad at. (Although my chocolate beer ice cream worked remarkably well!) I adapted it to use pop-corn instead of fresh corn to make it more “movie” flavoured, and added the maltesers.

To make the pop corn, simply add kernels to a brown paper bag, fold the lip down a few times to 'seal' and microwave for 2 minutes or so. Listen for the pops, and keep a nose out for burning.

Movie Flavoured Ice Cream – Pop Corn and Malteser Ice Cream
(barely adapted from Alejandra's)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 cups whole milk + ½ cup whole milk, divided
4 cups plain popped popcorn (1/4 cup kernels)
½ cup + 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
1 teaspoon good sea salt
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup Maltesers, roughly chopped, plus extra to serve
extra popcorn to serve

Combine the heavy cream, milk, vanilla bean, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Let simmer very gently for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to dissolve the sugar.

Turn off the heat, an add the popcorn one cup at a stirring to dissolve the popcorn before adding the next cup. Cover and let cool to room temperature.

Pass through a fine sieve into a clean pot, pressing out as much liquid through as possible.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the 3 tablespoons cornstarch and remaining ½ cup of cold milk until smooth. Add to the strained mixture and place over medium heat, stirring constantly in one direction until mixture thickens. Continue to cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until you can no longer detect the taste of cornstarch and it coats the back of the spoon.

Turn off the heat and transfer the thickened corn base to a clean bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface (this will help prevent a skin from forming on it while it cools) and chill in refrigerator for at least 3-4 hours – or overnight.

Process the chilled mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. When it is finished, transfer to a freezer safe container and gently fold in the maltesers. Freeze for 2-3 hours to properly set.

Top with additional malteser chunks and some popcorn.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Year's Easy Feast - Roasted Corn and Cashew Crema

Happy New Year Everyone!

I know, I know, I’m a little bit late. But better late than never! My husband doesn’t get much time off over the Christmas period. In fact, apart from Christmas Day, he doesn’t get any extra days. Which means that when the rest of the world has January 1st to recover from the revelry of New Year’s Eve – he has to get up and go to work. Because of this, we have started the tradition of New Year’s Eve Eves – on the Saturday before December 31st. Our actual NYE then can be a bit lower-key. But just because we aren’t partying, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t eat extremely well.

What does sort of prevent the good eating is that I’m not at work and therefore often have daytime plans. This year, I went with a few friends to watch Hopman Cup tennis, because I was lucky enough to score a few tickets in my company’s Corporate Suite. VIP, baby! This is where the slow cooker comes in handy. Before I left for the tennis, I put a pork leg in the slow cooker, so that when I came home I just had to shred it and we had Puerco Pibil. It is just this recipe here, but I used pork instead of the beef. And excitingly, I got a spice grinder for Christmas, so my spices were perfectly ground without slaving away with a mortar and pestle for ages (including annatto seeds this time!! I found some!). It was such an enticing smell to come home to!
Given that it's summer and also corn season, I decided to make a roast corn and cashew crema to go with it. Lance and I had a similar sauce in some pulled pork arepas at a restaurant in Atlantic City and it was so heavenly, we ordered a second lot! We spent the second round trying to break down the flavours we were tasting. It's creamy and rich, with a subtle nuttiness and just the perfect addition to the spice and salt of the pork. I was also a bit lazy in that I used my stick blender instead of my food processor, so it wasn't as smooth as it possibly should be.

Instead of the arepas which are time consuming, I simply grated a large sweet potato in the food processor, then fried it in a little of the pork fat that had rendered out until it was soft and crispy hash.
This also makes a delicious dip! You can even add a few tablespoons of greek yoghurt to make it smoother. And it was amazing with more pork pibil in tacos the next day, too.

Roasted Corn and Cashew Crema
kernels from 2 corn cobs (or about 1 cup frozen kernels)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
3/4 cup cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours.
30-60mL room temperature water
Heat a frypan up to medium heat and add the cumin seeds. Dry toast for a few seconds until fragrant and then put in the base of a food processor. Pulse to roughly chop
In the same frypan, add the corn kernels and toast for 10-15 minutes until brown patches start appearing and there's a distinct toasted corn smell about the pan. Take off the heat.
Rinse and drain the cashews, and add them, the toasted corn and the salt to food processor and then run until it becomes a smooth creamy looking mix. Add 30mL of water to loosen and make more sauce-like in it's consistency. I needed 60mL (two shots) to get the consistency I wanted.

And a few of our NYEEE backyard party shots. Looking forward to what 2014 brings!


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Recreating Deliciousness - Coppelia Calamari with Tamarind Dressing

On my recent holiday, I ate a lot of Cuban. A lot. It started at Bar Pulpo at the Melbourne Airport. And it was good. So rare to get good food at an airport! But I was really impressed. It made the 5 hour plane delay bearable! Then in the states, I went to a restaurant in New York that was recommended to me - Coppelia. And even though it's been two or so months since I've been there, I still consider it one of my favourite restaurants. It's a funky Latin diner style restaurant with ridiculously good, well-priced food. We went to another 4 Cuban restaurants in our trip and loved every single dish. So I came back and wishlisted a few Cuban cooking books on bookdepository (but if you have any recommendations for other good Latin and Cuban cookbooks to add to the list, I'd love to hear). So you can look forward to Skamp's versions of other Latin dishes!
Lance and I both fell in love with Coppelia's blue cornmeal crusted calamari with tamarind vinaigrette. We are haunted by it, so I am trying to create an "at-home" version. We don't get plantains in WA (or if you know of a place they're available, please, please, please let me know!!!) so I substituted bananas. Here's a photo of their version:

I couldn't find blue cornmeal, but I already had some blue corn flour (blue masa), which I used for the flour for the dusting as well as in the coating cornmeal. I get mine from one of my favourite shops in Perth - Kakulas. Using masa for the whole dish makes it naturally gluten free, if that's an issue for you.
To make the tamarind dressing, firstly you have to make tamarind syrup. There's a recipe here on my Kale Tamarind Salad recipe. You'll see in the pictures of my version, that it wasn't nearly saucy enough compared to theirs. When I heated the sauce, it reduced right down, so this recipe is double.

My verdict on it's similarity? Well, it's not quite the same, but it's still delicious. But my memory might also be failing me. I think the best thing to do would be to go back to New York to re-acquaint myself with the original!
200g squid rings
1 cup rice bran oil for frying
2 firm but ripe bananas, cut into 3cm chunks

Flour mix
1/4 cup blue corn flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

2 beaten eggs

Cornmeal mix
1/4 cup blue corn flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp ancho chilli powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder

Tamarind Dressing
16 tbsp tamarind syrup
8 tbsp red wine vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp cachaca
salt & pepper to taste

Have the flour mix, egg wash and cornmeal mix in three separate bowls, ready to go. Then an empty plate for the coated ring.

Dip each calamari ring in flour mix, shake to remove excess. Then the egg wash, shake to remove excess. Lastly coat with the cornmeal mix. Then coat the banana pieces in the same way.

Heat the rice bran oil in a wok or frypan - enough to create a shallow layer. Carefully splash a drop of water into the hot oil. If it sizzles, it's hot enough. Without crowding the pan, fry the calamari rings a few at a time, allowing to crispen and darken before turning over. It'll take a few minutes per side.

Place on paper towel lined plate and keep warm. Repeat with all rings until they're all cooked, then do the banana pieces, cooking each side until crispy.

In a separate pan, add all of the dressing ingredients and heat the pan to medium. Stir as it cooks for a minute or two until it reduces into a sticky sauce. carefully put the calamari and bananas in the sauce and stir to coat. Plate up, the drizzle the remaining sauce over the top.

Served here with a bean sprout, coriander, ginger and peanut salad.


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Inventing - Chick Pea Pancakes

Have you ever had that amazing feeling of thinking of something awesome for the first time? You feel like you've made this immense world-changing discovery because for you, it wasn't there, then you thought of it and it was. I've gotten it a few times in my lifetime. Sometimes for almost child-like discoveries of working out how something works without being shown. Sometimes for thinking of a novel way of using an ordinary household item. And sometimes for inventing recipes that blow my mind.

I know the I wouldn't be the first person to make these. I know that they possibly even exist as a traditional dish that's been around for generations. I also know that I invented them. In my world, anyway. In a food-related email discussion (I have a lot of those. A lot), we were talking about chick pea fritters and their awesomeness when I had a lightbulb moment. Chick pea pancakes. Savoury pancakes are already awesome, how about I make them with chick pea flour? I already had a Moroccan stew in the slow cooker that was requiring some form of side when I got home. What would be better than chick pea pancakes to dip in the saucy deliciousness? Armed with just this thought and an off-by-heart pancake recipe (more pikelet than crepe). I thought I would try it for the first time almost identically, minus sugar. I ramped up the baking powder and bicarb to ensure fluffiness with the new flour and voila. They were good. Really good.

This is pretty much going to be my go-to 'bread' recipe for all Middle Eastern and Indian dishes I make from now on, I'd say. My husband says they are like a cross between a pappadum and a paratha. So whilst it's probably not a new dish out there in the big wide world - I invented these. 100% from idea to finished product. And I'm pretty darned proud!


Chick Pea Pancakes
serves 4 as a side
1 cup chick pea flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb
1/4 tsp salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2  cup water
1 tbsp butter (I actually use olive oil spread)
More butter/spread for frying

Whisk chick pea flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt together to fully combine.

Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the egg and water, whisk until a smooth batter is obtained.

Melt the butter in a fry pan on a low heat. Pour this into the batter whilst whisking and make sure it is fully incorporated.

Put the pan back on the heat and a minute or so later, pour the batter into the pan for making pancakes to your desired size. The first time I made big ones, the next time I made pikelet size ones.

Fry until bubbles start forming on the surface, around 3 minutes. Then flip over and cook for another 1-2 minutes or lightly golden on the other side.

Store on a plate in a really low oven to stay warm as you repeat the process until all cooked.