Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Crab Pasta with a Gin and White Chocolate Sauce

I know that I suggested that you ‘cook’ a ceviche brulee for Valentine’s Day dinner, but I thought I’d also give you a second option. Also seafood. Also containing gin. And this one is a little more Valentine’s Day traditional in that it also contains chocolate! I’ve dabbled with savoury chocolate dishes a few time. This, so far, is my favourite. The sweetness of the crab pairs with the sweetness of the white chocolate and the red peppercorns provide just enough spice to temper against the sweetness. You’ll possibly have noticed I’m also really into gins at the moment. The one I used in this one is made in West Australia, so it might be a little harder for you to find. You can sub it in for a gin of your choice, but the citrusy hit that “Sabre” has is really suited to this dish. If you can get it, definitely give it a go, it’s really nice!

Given that Valentine’s Day is also soon – if you can’t find crab meat by Friday, I’ll also allow you to sub in prawns.

In the photos you’ll see I served this with a salad of leaves and sour cherries. The tartness of the cherries really pops with the richness of the pasta and makes it a complete meal. And given the gin and citrus, harks back to the Aviation cocktail that I’m a big fan of. That would be this dish’s perfect pre-dinner cocktail!

Crab Pasta with Gin and White Chocolate Sauce
200g crab flesh
¾ cup The West Winds“Sabre” Gin
Zest and juice of one lime
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp pepper corns
½ tsp sea salt
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 big cloves garlic, minced
50g white chocolate, finely chopped
1 tbsp butter
250g pasta

Cherry Salad
Mixed salad leaves
12 cherries, roughly chopped
½ zucchini, thinly sliced into rings
Assorted toasted nuts/seeds (I used pepitas, pine nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds)
Salt & pepper

Put a pot of salted water on to boil. When boiling, add the pasta to cook at the point where the garlic is cooked.

In a dry frypan, toast the coriander seeds for 30 seconds or so on medium heat until fragrant. Grind with the peppercorns. Set aside.

In the same pan, gently warm the olive oil and sautee the shallots for 5 minutes or so until translucent. Do not allow to colour. Add the garlic, salt, pepper and coriander seeds. Cook for a further 5 minutes. Add the lime zest, juice and gin, stir through really well and allow to reduce by about half – another 5 minutes or so.

Add the crab, stir well. Then mix in the white chocolate and butter, stirring frequently to allow everything to come together as the chocolate and butter melts.

At this point, the pasta should be al dente. Drain, then toss into the crab sauce. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Romantic Summer - Salmon Ceviche Brulee

Along with our wedding anniversary, Lance and I still like to acknowledge our ‘dating’ anniversary. We’re both fairly romantic folk, so it gives us another opportunity to celebrate us. We just passed our 6th anniversary of our first date. That first date was Epic. With a capital E. With castles and flying roses and passionfruit wine and dancing. It was seriously wonderful and thinking back over that night and everything that has happened between us in those last 6 years makes me all warm and fuzzy. That first night, we had sushi for dinner (something that Lance had not been a fan of before we became friends and I showed him how good it can be) and as a nod to that, we went to a wonderful Omakase and Teppenyaki restaurant in Mosman Park – Fu Ku. It’s a little pricey, but the food is incredible, so if you like Japanese and want somewhere to go for a special occasion, I highly recommend it! But, seeing as I always have recipe ideas running around in my head and things I want us to try, I thought I’d also make Lance a special meal for our anniversary too.

Given the recent heatwave we’ve been having in Perth, a lot of the dishes I have on my ‘to-cook’ list are ruled out as either too heavy to want to eat, or too labour intensive to want to cook. Which lead me to ceviche. We both love ceviche. We had it often on our last US trip, and since coming back we’ve found it popping up on menus around Perth. Don Tapa in Fremantle and El Publico in Highgate both do great ceviche. And it is so incredibly simple. Whilst you can get all fancy about the ingredients, essentially all you need is fresh seafood and citrus juice to “cook” it. On our last day in New York City, Lance and I went to a fantastic Peruvian restaurant that served a few different types of ceviche including what they called Salmon Brulee. A salmon ceviche formed into a neat square, with a layer of cream cheese on top, and a very thin layer of sugar that had been caramelised to a crisp on top. It was so unique and so delicious. So I decided to make a version of that for Lance.

I kept the whole thing very basic for my first attempt and the result was so good. Using my current citrus favourite - grapefruit and a cheeky little shot of Gin. You can substitute the grapefruit juice for lime or lemon (or a combination). And omit the gin if you're not into it - but I think the flavours go particularly well. I served this with a mango salad on the side, and used some of the marinading liquid to ‘dress’ it (this liquid is called Leche de Tigre in Peru and is considered a potent aphrodisiac AND hangover cure!). And a few home made tortilla chips. I also kept the pieces chunkier for my first attempt - nice and rustic. If you are like us, kind of romantic but looking to keep things fairly low-key with dinner at home on Valentine's Day, this is a fantastic quick and impressive dish for you to share with that special someone.

Salmon Ceviche Brulee
250g skinless salmon steaks
Grapefruit juice from one large grapefruit (around ¾ cup)
1 shot (30mL) gin (I used Gin Mare because of it’s olive flavours)
1 jalapeno, finely minced
1/4 tsp good sea salt
100g cream cheese
2 tbsp white sugar
Mango Salad
2 medium mangoes
2 roma tomatoes
½ sweet paprika
1 small Lebanese cucumber
1/3  Leche de Tigre (from the ceviche)

Finely slice the salmon portions (the smaller you cut it, the less time it’ll take to ‘cook’). Sprinkle with salt. In a glass bowl, add the grapefruit juice, gin and jalapeno. Add the salmon and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to cook. As a minimum, 30 minutes. Up to a few hours before you’re going to serve it.

Using a cutter, form a disc (or shape of your choosing) of cream cheese 1cm or so thick. Sprinkle a fine layer of sugar over the top and carefully unmold without pulling the sugar off with it.

To make the salsa – finely chop all of the ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.

When the ceviche is ready, strain through a sieve and reserve about 1/3 cup of the juice. Pour this reserved liquid into the mango salsa salad and mix well.

Form the salmon into a pile, carefully slide the cheese disc on top and use a brulee torch to burn the sugar on top.
Serve immediately with some fresh tortilla chips

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fathers' Day - Chocolate Beer Ice Cream

One of the funniest memories I have of my dad was from when I was in high school. As part of the Home Economics course, students used to occasionally sell their cooking to the teachers and staff at the high school. It used to raise money for the department and school, so my mum who worked in the high school library would often bring home various things they'd cooked. Generally, the food was pretty good.

One time, they did a proper fundraising drive and took orders for various individual sized pies by the dozen. Mum bought a dozen chicken, a dozen beef and a dozen apple pies that went into the freezer and as needed, would get taken out and heated in the oven. I came home late one night and felt like a chicken pie for dinner and going through the freezer, couldn't find any. Mum told me not to be ridiculous, they'd left one there for me. She came over to have a look and lo-and-behold, there was no chicken left, only apple. You could tell by the pastry shape cut and stuck to the top pie crust. Mum was completely flummoxed. Where had it gone? Which was when dad piped up, "I think I'm eating it."
"What do you mean, you're eating it? I just gave you dessert!"
"Yeah, it's a chicken pie."
"No, it's apple pie and ice cream."
"No. It's a chicken pie. With ice cream. I did think it was weird when you gave it to me."
"So why didn't you say something?"
"I don't know, it's good, so I ate it."

Now whenever I see chicken pies on a menu, I think of dad and his unusual dessert and can't help but laugh. So in honour of Fathers' Day, I'm making him this beer ice cream. I think it'll go better with chicken pies than vanilla ice cream! It's malty and rich and all sorts of delicious! Happy Fathers' Day!!


Chocolate Beer Ice Cream
adapted from here
355mL chocolate stout
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp cacao nibs, lightly crushed in a mortar & pestle
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp salt
6 large egg yolks
2 cups thickened cream

Simmer 235mL of the chocolate stout in a frypan until it has reduced by half, set aside to cool slightly. Put the remaining beer, vanilla, cream and crushed cacao nibs in a bowl, stir to mix. Add the reduced beer and mix well.

Prepare an ice bath, and place a large bowl in it with a fine mesh sieve over this.

Whisk the sugar, salt and eggs in a large saucepan until smooth. Then whisk in the cream & beer mixture. Slowly heat the mixture to medium high, constantly stirring until the mixture thickens. About 10 minutes.

Pour the cooked mixture through the sieve into the bowl in the ice bath and stir constantly until the mixture cools. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours until cold.

Churn in ice cream maker as per manufacturer's instructions, then freeze again until firm. At least a few hours. I did mine overnight due to time restraints.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You Only Get One - Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles

These are my husband's favourite biscuits. We both love the choc/chilli combination, so when I came across this recipe a few year's back on MlovesM blog, I gave it a go almost immediately. From first bite, my husband was obsessed. I've told you before that he takes biscuits to work for lunch - well, this is the biscuit that started it. He would call me from work and claim I hadn't given him any, because he'd eaten them all before lunch time. He would tell everyone that would listen that these were the most amazing biscuit in the entire world, that you'd have one and just constantly want more. That he was torn, between wanting the wholed world to taste them, but wanting to keep them all for himself. So he came up with a compromise - you only get one.

Just before he'd give someone one of these biscuits he'd tell them he was going to give them the best biscuit ever, but you only get one. You will only ever get one. And that's all they ever got. So, if you want more than that, you'd best make them yourself.

These are best baked just until cracking point, that way when they cool, they are slightly fudgy on the inside and crisp on the outside. My husband told me to point out that these biscuits are also one of the few he's ever eaten that are best eaten cold, not warm from the oven. This last batch I made with spelt flour, to increase the nutritional value. I haven't used spelt much before, but have read that you need to be a bit more careful with it, so when mixing the wet and dry, do it gently and stop as soon as it's completely mixed. Taste, texture and cooking-wise, they were identical.

As a disclaimer, I don't necessarily think these are the *best* biscuit in the entire world, but they are in my husband's world and they are pretty delicious!

Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles
(makes about 24)
1 and 2/3 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder (I use Cadbury Bournville Cocoa)
1 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup grapeseed (or other neutral) oil
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup pure maple sugar
3 tbsp milk
2 tsp vanilla

Sugar coating
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 170C

Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, bicarb soda, cinnamon, cayenne and salt.

In another bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, maple syrup, milk and vanilla. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until just combined.

In a small plastic container or jar with a lid, combine the cinnamon and sugar and shake to combine. Your biscuits will be dunked in this, so if you can't use it straight from the container, spread it back out in a shallow dish. I always have a container of cinnamon sugar ready for making these snickerdoodles!

Roll dough into small balls, then gently flatten into discs around the size of the biscuits you want. Gently push one side of the disc into sugar coating. Then place sugar side up onto lined baking trays. They spread a little, so give them room.

Bake until the cookies have spread and are crackly on top, around 9-12 minutes. Cool, then eat!

These also make amazing ice cream sandwiches!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mothers' Day Celebration Cake - Gâteau de Bayou with Toasty Salted Caramel Meringue

On top of forgetting to write down recipes I concoct for repeat cooking, I also have a huge stash of 'one day' recipes. These usually fall into two categories; difficult or time consuming to make - such as the slow cooked Puerco Pibil I discussed here. And cakes. Because when there's only two of us at home, we don't ever really need a whole cake. And I don't really want to be that person who constantly brings cake to work, so I usually limit my baking exploits to biscuits that my husband can take to work. But my brother, husband and I were putting on a late lunch/early dinner (linner!) for Mothers' Day a few weekends back. What more perfect reason to go through my 'one day' cake recipes?

This recipe I 'filed' away by copying the link and saving it in an email draft in 2011. Almost 2 years later (and after having received a creme brulee torch as a gift), it was time to bring it out. This was one of the birthday cakes on Oprah's 10th Birthday Season special and it appeals to two of my favourite sweet flavours - ginger and salted caramel. I made the cake Saturday afternoon and then the meringue the next day. And it was a huge hit. Visually, it's impressive, but tastewise it is too! The sweet of the meringue balances out against the spice of the ginger perfectly. But to be honest, the cake was at it's best for morning tea on Monday. I'm not sure if it was legitimately because the flavours develop more, or I hadn't stuffed myself full of food already, or because cake makes my work day better, or a combination of all of them. Either way, stored in an airtight container, it definitely stayed moist and delicious for a few days.

As with a lot of American recipes, I've had to make some substitutions due to lack of availability in Perth, but apart from that, it's just the recipe found on Oprah's site

Gâteau de Bayou with Toasty Salted Caramel Meringue
2 tbsp fresh grated ginger
3 3/4 cups plain flour
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 2/3 cup maple syrup
1 1/3 cups rice bran oil
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp Tabasco sauce

4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup

To make cake
Combine ginger and 1 1/3 cups of water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes for the ginger to infuse. Set a sieve over a bowl and strain, pressuing the pulp with a spoon to get all the liquid out. Discard the pulp and let the ginger water cool.

Preheat oven to 170C. Grease a 10 inch Bundt pan with butter. Dust with a few tbsp plain flour, tapping out the excess.

Whisk together 3 3/4 cups flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and pepper in a bowl.

Combine 1 1/3 cups maple syrup, oil, brown sugar and ginger water in another bowl. Whisk until blended. Whisk in eggs, one at a time, and then the hot sauce. Add flour mixture and beat together with a hand mixer on low until it's smooth. Pour into the Bundt pan.

Bake 50-55 minutes of until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold onto a cake rack. Poke holes into the cake with a long wooden skewer and brush the warm cake with the remaining 1/3 cup of maple syrup. Let cool.

To make meringue
It's best if you have a stand mixer - I don't, so this is sort of a two-person job.

Using a hand beater with whisk attachment, beat egg whites, salt and 1/4 cup sugar on medium high until soft peaks form.

Combine remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 1/3 cup water in small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, swirling pan occasionally to dissolve sugar. Cook until syrup is dark amber - about 10 minutes. Stir in corn syrup, mixture will bubble. Cook, without stirring, until the syrup is 240F on a candy thermometer.

Two people part! One person holds the bowl and beats the egg white mixture on low speed. Second person pours the caramel into egg white mixture in a thin stream. Don't let syrup touch whisk. Once all incorporated, increase speed and beat until thick enough to spread. About 2 minutes. While meringue is still warm, spread over cake with a large spatula, making peaks and swirls. With a creme brulee torch, brown the meringue.

Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rituals - Quinoa Cookies

Love is in the everyday, in the rituals. My husband and I have developed and perfected various routines for our day-to-day chores and tasks. And mornings are more sort of my domain. When the alarm goes off, I get up and get my husband toast, bring it in on the best plate ever, and pack his lunch while he gets dressed. His lunch has changed over the years to something super easy for me to pack. 

He works with a lot of tradies, and doesn't really like the state of the kitchen in his lunch room, so he was never a fan of preparing, or even storing his food there. And working outside in an Australian summer restricts what he wants to bring in for lunch. His current food of choice for lunch is biscuits. Nutritious, right? But he often doesn't get a proper lunch break, so he likes things he can snack on here and there. Enter quinoa. These cookies are the perfect mix of healthy, extended energy, bite-sized and delicious to work perfectly as a lunch biscuit. Something I don't feel too badly about giving him. Make sure that you use natural peanut butter (the only ingredient should be peanuts), because the texture helps them stick together. I found the original recipe here, but changed the mixing method slightly and added vanilla.

But knowing I make these biscuits for his lunch and help him get off to work every day makes him feel loved. Like when he gives me a back rub when it's my turn to do the dishes. It's the little things.

Rituals - Quinoa Cookies
Rituals - Quinoa CookiesRituals - Quinoa Cookies

Quinoa Cookies

Makes around 30 small cookies
2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I like chunky)
1 tsp vanilla
3 tbsps maple syrup
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or cacao nibs if you're feeling especially virtuous)

Preheat oven to 180C
Line a baking tray with baking paper
Combine quinoa, salt, coconut, chocolate chips and oats in a large mixing bowl.
Stir in coconut and chocolate chips, make sure it's evenly distributed.
Add peanut butter, maple syrup and vanilla and mix it all in really well.
Very lightly oil your hands (to stop the mix sticking too much!)
Mix round balls, forming together tightly and push to flatten slightly. They do not flatten/spread themselves.
Bake for around 20 minutes until golden.
Cool completely before storing.

These are also delicious with dried fruit - cranberries, sultanas and the like!

Breakfast Love - Greek Yoghurt and Coconut Souffle

I love breakfast. It's my favourite meal of the day. Maybe the bacon love has contributed to it's special place in my heart, I'm not sure. All I know is that I love breakfast. In fact, before my husband and I started dating, I gave him a little disclaimer that if we were a couple, we'd probably have to go on a few breakfast dates, even though he rarely ate breakfast back then. We now have our own favourite breakfast cafe. On weekdays, my breakfast is fairly steady - oats, greek yoghurt, some form of fruit. Simple, nutritious and yum. I'm not one of those people that get bored eating the same breakfast every day. However, that is "work day" food, so I don't want to eat the same thing on the weekend. I feel like I need something different to celebrate the fact that it's my time. I'm a bit weird like that.

I spied this recipe for Greek Yoghurt Souffle on pinterest the other day and was intrigued. I've never attempted a souffle before. To me, they are one of those mysterious things that are notoriously temperamental and therefore 'to be avoided'. I've seen many a breakdown in pop culture related purely to souffles that did not rise. But this one seemed relatively easy, and it was made with Greek Yoghurt - a favourite of mine...maybe it was time to give it a shot?

You may recall a previous post about how I'm not a gardener? Well, that doesn't matter to our mango tree, which decided to produce a fair amount of fruit this year. Walking into the kitchen to the beautiful summery smell of fresh mangoes told me that this was the perfect day for trying a light souffle. I replaced the normal flour for coconut flour to continue the tropical flavours, and added shredded coconut to the fruit salad. It didn't rise quite as much as it should have, and flattened quickly, but it tasted amazing. Next time I'd maybe make 4 larger ones, rather than 6 smaller ones to rise more and make it look more impressive!

And if, like me, you decide to make breakfast for someone special, this is perfect for breakfast in bed. It can all be eaten with a spoon, no messy cutting like eggs, bacon and toast have. The do go flat really, really quickly though - so serve them up straight away!

Greek Yoghurt and Coconut Souffle
1 cup Greek Yoghurt
3 large eggs, separated
3 tbsps coconut flour
pinch salt
1 tsp vanilla
pinch cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
butter/extra sugar to line ramekins

Preheat oven to 180C (the original recipe called for bottom heating only - who am I to argue)
Butter, then sugar the ramekins, tapping out the excess sugar. Line them up on a baking tray to make it easier to put in the oven.
Whisk yoghurt, yolks, coconut flour, salt and vanilla together in a large bowl
In a separate bowl, beat the whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Slowly add the sugar and keep beating until firm soft peaks form.
Slowly fold the egg white mix into the yoghurt mix, a little at a time. Make sure you fold it carefully to keep the air in the egg whites.
Divide into the ramekins, then put them in the oven for around 15minutes until risen and lightly browned.

Serve with your favourite fruit!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day : Castle Gingerbread

I like the idea of Valentine’s Day, because I think all things love and romance should definitely be celebrated. Love is infectious!  But I find the reality is that when you have a partner, it can be more of an obligation than a loving thing. And not necessarily from your partner! Everybody judging what you’ve spent, how much effort has been put in.  My husband and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day, instead celebrating the days that are significant to us throughout the year, and spontaneously showing our love to each other with gifts and dates. But it never hurts to show your love and appreciation to the special people in your life. Who doesn't love getting chocolates and flowers!

In the interests of spreading the love and joy and all the good parts of Valentine’s Day, I am going to tell you a story with this recipe of my first birthday with my partner. Hopefully it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. If I bring a smile to your face this Valentine’s Day, then I will consider it successfully celebrated.

Early on in our friendship, my husband learnt two pertinent facts about me.
1. That I was moving to Scotland (to live in a castle) and
2. That even as an adult, I still adore the movie “Labyrinth”.

Fast forward about 7 months later and I moved to Scotland, briefly, before moving home again. We then started dating and moved in together. One afternoon on the couch he tells me nonchalantly that he wants to throw me a masked ball, like in the Labyrinth, for my birthday. He’ll host it at his parent’s house, but it will mean him moving home for a few weeks before the party so he can do the gardens up, and prepare and decorate. The set-up is to be a surprise. We plan various things for the party over the next few months, we build a Zoltar machine, we send out invitations, we make our masks. He moves back into his parents’ house, and eventually the party is upon us. When I arrive, I am escorted outside. The garden has fairy lights everywhere, there is a throne for me to sit on and there are hundreds of our friends and family all in masks, looking amazing.

Then it is time for the “ceremony”. He plansed an elaborate presentation (again, based on the movie) in which this wonderful gingerbread Labyrinth castle is revealed to me. The whole thing is edible (minus a few props) and reflects different scenes from the movie. Everything it is made from had special significance to us and our relationship. It took him 3 weeks to bake and assemble the whole thing, and that was working 16 hour days. He took 3 weeks off work to do it! He is not a baker or caterer or anything like that by trade, he just got this wonderfully sweet idea in his head and decided to make it happen for me. For scale, I am a touch shy of 6'2".

So now, I present to you his recipe for  Castle Gingerbread. His notes for this are – heap the spoons of ginger, and best to make a double batch. Maybe you can spread the love and give your special people some gingerbread made from the heart.

Happy Valentine's Day.
Castle Gingerbread
125g butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 ½ cups plain flour
1tsp bicarb soda
3tsp ground ginger
2 ½ tbsp. gold syrup

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add egg yolk, beat well until lighter in colour
Gradually add sifted dry ingredients alternated with golden syrup
Mix well, knead lightly
Roll out on a lightly floured surface to desired thickness, cut shapes
Place on baking paper on trays
Bake approx. 10 minutes at 180C
The 'Firies', the bog of eternal stench, the worm
The robot door man
Who can forget Hoggle peeing in the pond at the start of the movie?!