Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pear, Rocket, Walnut and Blue Cheese Salad


Good morning all!

I've just got home from seeing Harry Potter and am still in a daze. David Yates - the director - has done incredibly well. Without giving anything away I can say that this film is much more sinister than the previous ones have been and was very true to the book. I'd even recommend those who aren't Harry Potter fans to go and see it, simply because even if you haven't seen the previous films you'll still enjoy the cinematography and the fantastic story line. 
 
Enough of that for the moment though and onto food!

Notice of Warning: The next few posts are going to be of recipes that have been made whilst I neglected the blog so they will not be vegan. Though of course you can make them such by omitting or replacing certain ingredients. 

Today’s post is on a pear, rocket, walnut and blue cheese salad I made back in winter - yes I know it's a long time ago for such a familiar meal but I think it's one of those comforting recipes you can have on stand by and whip together in a moments notice. For the vegans out there, while the blue cheese gives it a greater depth of flavor it is by no means essential, if you want to give the salad another dimension try brushing the pears with maple syrup and char grilling them. It should also be pointed out that I don’t like salads to be dressed so I often leave mine plain, however a walnut or blue cheese dressing would be prefect.
 
Ingredients:
1 nearly ripe pear
2 handfuls of rocket (I also added two leaves of romaine lettuce, and some spinach)
½ handful of walnuts
2 slivers of blue cheese, crumbled
few shavings of parmesan 

Method:
- Wash, dry and trim the salad leaves.

- Cut the pear in half lengthways and using an apple corer, melon scoop or teaspoon remove the core. Stand pear up again, pressing the two halves together and cut into eights to achieve segment-like pieces. If char grilling the pear heat the pan on a medium-high heat and with a pastry brush lightly cover the pears in maple syrup, once pan is hot transfer pears to the heat and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes on either side. You only want them to caramelize and slightly burnish, if you think the pan is too hot them immediately turn it down.

- Roughly chop the walnuts and crumble cheese. Finally, toss everything together and transfer everything to a serving bowl and garnish with the parmesan.

Question: Have you read all the Harry Potter or seen the films … or both? If so what was your favourite? Have you been disappointed by any of the films?

My favourite book was the Deathly Hallows simply because it made you think and anticipate what was coming more so than the previous ones did. The same applies to the film, which definitely stands out from the others more strongly. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's about time!

Well well well, where to begin? My last post was back in July and I'm torn between starting all over again and simply continuing on here.
During this three month absence a great deal has happened. The weather is warming up again and we can almost taste summer, which means BBQs, Christmas, New Year, the beach, long walks with friends, cycling, running (hopefully) and a new seasons produce! I've also finished first year university, had my 19th birthday, tried out a handful of new restaurants in Melbourne, discovered a zillion new foodie blogs which have ultimately lead to the biggest change of all which is my turning vegan(ish).  
Why? I hear you cry in surprise and alarm. Firstly, I’m not going to be terribly strict about this, it’s more a general eradication of dairy, eggs etc from my diet as they make me feel somewhat sluggish. Secondly, I’ve unknowingly been vegetarian for two months and I can’t say I hugely miss meat. As this isn’t a motivated by morals I shan't hold back on ordering something with fish or a meal containing a dairy product when at a restaurant, life’s too short to deprive yourself of something you want plus I’m doubtful that it will make me feel too lethargic if it’s only every not and then. Finally, for months now I’ve been taking even more of an interest in the food I eat and I want to know exactly how it’s prepared and what’s going into it so there’s a greater emphasis on ‘clean eating’ and on sourcing as much as possible locally. Now I promise you, being vegan does not limit my meals in anyway, if anything it’s enhancing my food knowledge and gently encouraging me to experiment more in the kitchen. It’s far from the stereotype of tofu and lentils. 
So without further ado let me introduce you to Katie, she’s prompted - in part - this change thanks to her delicious recipes. Before I began reading her blog about 7 months ago I hadn’t given much though towards vegan food. So thank you Katie for opening my eyes and introducing me to another area of foodie goodness! 
I decided that my contribution to ‘Hug a Vegan’ would be to make Angela’s variation of Katie’s ‘Hot Chocolate Butter Melties’ which I've further altered to turn them into maple truffles.
Ingredients:
30 g coconut oil/butter
20g cocoa powder, extra for dusting
1/8 cup agave (I used maple syrup) the amount is optional but this is a good starting point
Method:
Melt your coconut oil in the microwave or a water bath then whisk in maple syrup.
- Add the cocoa and stir until thickened.
- Place in ice cube trays, chocolate moulds or whatever else takes your fancy and set in the fridge (10 minutes) or freezer (5 minutes). Personally I like mine frozen as they’re more chewy. If you want to make them into truffles as I’ve done then simply chill the mixture in the freezer for 5 minutes then roll a teaspoon of the mixture in your hands, place back in the freezer for 5 minutes then roll in the extra cocoa.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Muesli Bars

I was doing the supermarket shopping with mum on the weekend and I decided to try the healthiest looking muesli bars I could find. Having decided (by looking at the packaging - incidentally, bad idea) I proceeded to wander the aisles reading the nutritional information. I was staggered to see that a simple muesli bar that had not been roasted, had no chocolate added and the packaging of which boasted various health claims could be so packed full of sugar and trans fats. They were rather expensive so mum and I decided to put them back and make our own. 

And here they are!

These bars were wonderful, nice and chewy, easy to make and very adaptable. The original recipe came from Australia Food which I found through Taste Spotting but (as always) I’ve altered the recipe to suit what I’ve got. Do you see the theme developing here? I sure do!
We’ll start with the down side, these didn’t set quite hard enough to enjoy if you were on the run. I had to lift them carefully out of the tray an even then they could crumble. To prevent this from happening I put them in the fridge and all was well. Next time I make them (and believe me there will be and next time, and probably and next and a next ...) anyway, next time I’ll be using a smaller tray so that they’re thicker and hopefully they’ll stick together. Secondly, I’ll experiment with the butter levels as I found these ones too buttery. Though it did give a depth of flavour I found it too much and it somewhat detracted from the healthy image I had in mind. 
Now onto the positives, there’s a lot. The bars were delicious!! They were inexpensive to make, can be altered as you wish and didn’t take long to prepare or set. The bars were sweet (but not sickeningly so), chewy and looked stunning. You can make them healthier by changing the fruit, for example instead of using dried fruit which can high in sugar you could use fresh fruit and dehydrate them yourself. Try cutting some apple, pear, apricot, nectarine, plum, cherries, fig or any other fruit that’s in season and drying them in an oven or in a dehydrator. The combinations are only limited by your green grocer ;)
I wonder how a little passionfruit would would go with nectarine for a summer one ... Anyway before I fall into a dreamlike state I need to finish this :D
Ingredients:
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup currents
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup sultanas
1/4 of flax seeds
100g butter 
1/2 cup honey
1/8 cup brown sugar
* If you wanted to make these vegan simply substitute coconut butter and maple syrup for the honey.
Method:
- Line square or rectangular baking tin with grease proof paper. Set aside.


- Combine oats, coconut, sesame seeds, poppy seeds in a fry pan over low heat. Stir every few minutes for 8 minutes or until golden. Be careful not to burn the mixture. Transfer to a bowl to cool. Stir in the fruit and flax seeds.


- In a small sauce pan stir the butter, honey and sugar over a medium heat until the sugar has melted. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer, without stirring, for 4-5 minutes. Add butter mixture to dry ingredients. Stir well until combined.


- Spoon the mixture into the tin. Use a large metal spoon to press the mixture down firmly and evenly. This must be firmly compacted otherwise bars will fall apart when being held. I put a layer of grease proof paper over the top of the semi compacted mixture, then placed a heavy book on top and used that to smooth out the contents. 


Allow to cool and then cut into squares or rectangles. The bars can be stored in a foil-lined airtight container for up to a week.


Friday, July 23, 2010

Granola



I've been following Sami from A Teenage Gourmet since she began her blog and I have to say that she's wonderful! Her recipes are generally low calorie and very healthy but without omitting ANY flavour which can be a real life saver some days. The following is her granola recipe, which was adapted from Bon Appetit. This is perfect in the morning with some milk or sprinkled on top of yoghurt or even as a mid day/night snack. I recently went to Queensland for a holiday with some friends and I brought a snap lock bag of this with me - they loved it and we sat for at least 10 minutes feasting. 

I’ve altered her recipe further to work with what ingredients were in stock. You can leave out the chocolate if you want to go healthier, personally I leave it in as it will clump together this way providing more variation in the texture.

Ingredients:
3 cups oats
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (I've changed this to almonds and cashews which both worked well)
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup assorted dried fruit (I use raisins, currants, cranberries and sultanas)

Method:
Preheat oven to 150°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Combine the first 7 ingredients in a bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour the hot honey mixture over dry ingredients, toss to coat oats in the honey as evenly as possible.

Spread onto baking tray. Bake until golden brown, stirring every 10 minutes, for roughly 30 minutes.

What can I say, incorporating the chocolate wasn't working too well with the spatula so hands were resorted to :P
Place the tray on a wire cooling rack and stir granola, allow to cool. Mix in fruit. If you’re adding chocolate do so when it come out of the oven, you can either chop VERY finely or melt an individual dark chocolate bar, I tend to use about half a packet (50g) of dark chocolate and toss it through the hot mixture once it’s left the oven.

This will stay at it’s best if kept for about a week in an airtight container.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

CRISIS (and Fudge babies!)

I'm afraid my camera cord has performed a disappereing act so there won't be photos for a while. However when I find it/buy another I'll edit the posts and add the photos. I've had a look over the house and the enitre family is now involved a manhunt to find said escapee - don't worry I have the equivelent of MI5 on my side.

Wish me luck!

In the mean time however:

Fudge Babies

Recently I've stumbled upon a lot of vegan and vegetarain blogs so I decided to try a few of the recipes out. These are an adaption of Chocolate Covered Katie's  chocolate cookie dough babies. She's written and photographed a veriety of flavours and I have to say they're rather good. I found them very rich and could only manage two at breakfast today. Don't worry the rest weren't wasted, they made wonderful snacks throughout the day with no added sugar or anything un natural I'm giving them a sticky smile of approval!

Ingredients:

80g pitted dates
30g cashews (I used almonds and cashews though you can use any nuts you like)
20g almonds
1/2tsp vanilla extract

Method:


In a food processor add all the ingredients and process until combined and finely cut. Then Simply form them into balls, bars or other shapes of your choice. To form them into other shapes spread the mixture out thinly onto baking paper and place in the fridge for 10 minutes. Then using a cookie cutter stamp out the shapes as you want them.

That's all for now, it's time to resume the search!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Seared Salmon with Lentil Tabouleh

A few days ago whilst browsing in David Jones food section I stumbled across a Lebanese salad which was essentially a cross between tabouleh, lentils and couscous, I bought a small tub to try it out and had about half of it for lunch. That night I came across the recipe below which was featured on Tastespotting. Feeling inspired I used the remaining Lebanese salad to make my own version of the Lentil Tabouleh below. I didn’t follow their directions for the salad, but here’s the link to the original recipe.
I found the salmon very delicate, it definitely needed the salad to carry it. I would not recommend preparing the salmon this way if you’re having it with roast vegetables as it’s not strong enough. To counteract this you could always add different spices or make a sauce so it to avoid the fish being lost in the dish. If you like it to be medium or well done add either another 1-2 minutes.
The following is for one person.
Ingredients:
I’m afraid this will not be very accurate, as it is a matter of taste, plus I don’t know exactly what was in the Lebanese salad, here goes anyway. However I cooked the salmon according to their directions.
Salad
green lentils
cous cous
mint
parsley
lemon juice
I added 
3 asparagus sticks 
1/4 cucumber
1 tomato 
few thin slices of red onion
squeeze of lemon juice
Salmon
drizzle of olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 salmon fillet, skin removed
Method:
Preheat oven to 180℃.
Pour about an inch of boiled water into a steamer and add the asparagus with their ends broken off, cover and allow the steam until cooked - about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the steamer and cool for a few minutes. Make a small cut through the asparagus lengthways at the base of it. Turn the asparagus 90 degrees and make 3-4 cuts lenghtways. This is so the asparagus will curl through the salad. Toss together the salad ingredients and top with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Brush salmon in oil and rub in the seasoning to your taste. Place in a oven proof frying pan  on a medium-high heat top side down for 2 minutes to sear the top of the fillet. Turn the salmon so it’s the right way up and transfer to the heated oven for 8 minutes. 
 Remove salmon from the oven and allow it to stand covered for 5-7 minutes, this lets the juices settle. Give the salad a final toss and serve. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Biscuit Icing and Decorating

Royal Icing
I had to cut it short when doing the biscuit post as it was closer to early morning than late evening when I finished. The icing I use on the cookies is from 'Delia Smith's Christmas' page 24 (yes I know the page off by heart - bit sad isn't it?!)
Ingredient: 
500g icing sugar
3 large egg whites
1 tsp glycerine
Method:
Place the egg whites in a bowl and slowly add the sifted icing sugar mixing with a metal spoon until it drips thickly from the spoon. Once combined beat with a mixer for 10 minutes until it stands in stiff peaks. Then stir in the glycerine, this will give it a glossy sheen. 
Simply divide the mixture amongst different blows, one for each colour. I use gel colours as these don’t turn the icing sugar runny as can happen if you need an intense, deep colour. To fill or ‘flood’ the biscuits thin the icing by adding a few drops of water until you achieve a runny consistency that when lifted with a spoon folds back on itself almost immediately. 

For Directions about how to ice biscuits I highly recommend looking at Bake At 350 and University of Cookie. That’s where I’ve got all my ideas and technique (which needs improvement) so definetly take a look at this group get up to.
Other Decorations:
About 9 or 10 months ago mum and some of her friends (J.A.C.K - their initials. K being my mum Kathy) discovered macarons, NOT macaroons!!! I won’t go into the ins and outs of making them yet - that would take an incredibly long time to type up as there are three methods, French, Italian and Spanish which range in stability and difficulty. However more of that later, at the moment I’m going to talk about the decorations we have. 
We have a tin which is more like a treasure trove, full of bits and pieces for decorating and flavouring. It was originally - when I was about 5 - used for holding sweets, lollies and chocolates, this elusive tin was always something of a source of wonder as it seamed to move locations every few weeks. It would be re-hidden and my sister and I would begin the hunt all over again, when my parents noticed the the supplies were getting suspiciously low it would suddenly disappear then reappear in a new location all over again. 
Nowadays, we have crystalised violets for the macs, green, purple and pink glitters, red and pink hearts, sugar balls of all colours - I’ve only photographed the pink ones. We have no shortage of cupcake holders, ribbons, brushes, extracts, props and dishes for photographing. So here’s a look at the tin that has been the bounty of many sugar cravings.

Chicken with Smoked Garlic, Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

A simple, quick and very tasty dinner! 
Ingredients:
One clove of garlic (I used smoked garlic that I picked up from The Good Food and Wine Show) 
one chicken breast
a handful of cherry tomatoes 
basil leaves tossed through at the end and to garnish

Method:
Simply heat some olive oil in a pan on a medium - hight heat and sear the chicken for two minutes then turn the heat down to medium and cook for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for another 4-5 minutes. 
To check if the chicken’s cooked insert a knife into the thickest part of the chicken and if the liquid that comes out is pink tinged then the chicken isn’t ready however if it’s clear then it’s ready. Take the chicken out and allow it to rest until you’re ready to plate up. This allows the juices in the chicken to settle.
Chop the garlic and add it to the pan when they begin to sauté add the tomatoes and quickly cook on a high heat until they blister. Then toss the basil through the tomatoes and plate up! 
As I said this is very simple so you can experiment and change it however you want, though let’s be honest tomatoes and basil is a pretty unbeatable combination.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sugar Biscuits

These biscuits are good for kids' parties as they can be made in under half an hour, are sweet and the mixture can be multiplied without the risk of the recipe becoming unstable as can happen with a lot of baking. I use these biscuits to experiment with decorating as - to be honest - they aren’t anything wonderful to sit down and have with a coffee or tea as a ginger snap or something similar would be, nonetheless they are an old favourite and will always have a special place in my heart as they evoke meny childhood memories. Below are some designs I've recently made. I would like to give a big thanks to Bridget at Bake At 350 for the ideas and help I've been recieving via email. Whilst browsing through Marian's decorates cookies at Sweetopia I stumbled upon these delightful little duck cookies and decided to give them a shot. Finally, thank you hugely to C at Bake It Off for the two or so boxes of colours and the piping nozzle. I baked the first ones for a management study day with some friends from uni - they were impressed. Sadly when icing these I only had one piping bag so there was a lot of colour changing ... and washing as I did these on the same day as the circular ones.


Ingredients:

155g butter (room temperature)
155g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tsp of vanilla extract
255g plain flour
Method:
Pre heat the oven to 180oC and line a baking tray with grease proof paper.
Cream the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and cream for another minute*. Sift in the flour.
Flour a work surface and rolling pin and role out to 0.5 cm thick and cut shapes out. Be creative at this point. If you haven’t got a cutter and you’re decorating these for an occasion you can always draw out your own and cut them with a knife.
Cook for 10-13 minutes or until golden brown.
* If you have anything else to add, for example chocolate shavings or chips, now’s the time to do so.


To all the expert decorators who may see these, I know they need work but I'll get there, just hoping my hand will become more steady with the piping bags. ;)


This last one was for mum, it bears some resemblance, love you mother dearest ;).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jamie’s Baked Chocolate Tart

I have made Jamie Oliver's baked chocolate tart numerous times for my family on a quiet night in as well as for special occasions. It’s foolproof! The pastry is beautifully delicate and the chocolate mixture is rich so only have a little. It is complimented perfectly with either fruit in summer or coffee in winter. The pastry recipe is included below the tart recipe. Oh one other thing, these photos are from about 2 if not 3 years ago, I never thought anyone else would see these as they are more of a personal record. So apologies for the poor lighting and lack of centerdness (new word) but at least it gives you an idea of how it'll turn out.

Baked Chocolate Tart

Ingredients:
150g unsalted butter
160g good quality chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids)
8 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
Small pinch salt
4 large eggs
200g granulated sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
3 tablespoons crème fraiche or double cream
10-inch (25cm) tart shell baked blind (see below)

Method:
Preheat oven to 150ºC
Place the butter, chocolate, cocoa powder and salt in a bain marie (a bowl held above a saucepan of simmering water, do not allow the bowl to be at all immersed in the water as this can cause scorching). Occasionally stir the melting ingredients.

In a separate bowl beat the eggs and sugar together until light and well creamed, followed by the golden syrup and sour cream or crème fraiche. Add the chocolate mixture into this mixture, scraping all the chocolate out with a spatula. Mix again until well combined, then pour into the blindbaked pastry shell (see below). Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. During cooking a beautiful crust will form on top.

Once the time has passed remove the tart from the oven and allow to cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes, during which time the surface will crack and the filling will shrink slightly. Then simply remove it from the shell and serve. You will need to keep the tart on the shell base, it may split if it is moved as it is heavy.

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry

Ingredients:
500g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g icing sugar, sifted
250g unsalted cold butter, cut into small cubes
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs beaten, I always use free range
splash of milk





Method:


Sieve the flour from a height (for greater aeration) on to a clean work surface or wide bowl and sieve the icing sugar over the top. Rub the cubed butter into the flour mixture using your thumb against your index, middle and ring fingers, you end up with a fine, crumbly mixture. Now add the zest or any other flavouring of your choice.

Add the eggs and milk to the mixture and gently work it together until you have a ball of dough. Don’t work it too much as it will become elastic and chewy as opposed to being desirably crumbly and short. Flour your work surface and place the dough on top. Pat it into a flat round, flour it lightly, wrap it in clingfilm and put it into the fridge to rest for at least half an hour. When you need to use it simply re flour the dough and the work surface and roll out to line your tart shell. Don’t worry too much if it breaks, it’s better to patch it up than to re-kneed it numerous times, plus it will add a rustic touch.

Remember be creative, if you’re out of lemons try orange or lime zest, or you could add some nutmeg, cocoa, vanilla or cinnamon. So long as you keep these flavours subtle you can't go wrong ... though maybe don't try flavouring with Vegemite!


HH

Monday, June 21, 2010

Blood Orange Marmalade

I first made this for my year 12 Food Tech Portfolio. There were various requirements such as having one preserve, marmalade fitted my theme however I wanted to put a twist on the traditional Seville Orange Marmalade so after some thought as to what fruit could be used I decided on blood orange. This marmalade is more tangy and doesn't need as long on the heat as traditional marmalades.
Ingredients:
250gm caster sugar 
10 blood oranges
3 lemons
Method:

Preheat the oven to 100oC. Wash two 250ml jam jars and their lids in hot soapy water and rinse, then transfer jars to the oven and leave to dry for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes turn the oven off and allow jars to cool. Wet a piece of kitchen towel in methylated sprits and clean the lids. This sterilizes the jars, preventing mould from forming.
Zest and juice the oranges and lemons. Wrap lemon seeds in muslin bag and tie shut with string ensuring you leave it long enough to wrap around the handle of the saucepan to allow it to be lifted out when it is no longer required. Place two saucers in the freezer. These saucers will be used to conduct a gel test to establish whether or not the marmalade is thick enough.
Place orange zest and juice in a saucepan with sugar and lemon juice, stir until sugar is dissolve then add the muslin bag containing lemon seeds. Simmer for 30-35 minutes, brushing down the sides with a damp pastry brush and spooning any scum off the surface. Though it may be tempting, do not stir the liquid once the sugar has melted into the juice as this causes sugar crystals to form giving the final product a grainy texture. This said you can occasionally swirl the saucepan.
Once the 35 minutes have passed, remove a saucer from the freezer and take the saucepan off the heat removing the muslin bag and conduct a gel test. This involves placing a teaspoon of marmalade onto the chilled saucer, allowing it to stand for 1-2 minutes then slowly running your index finger through the mixture. If the surface of the marmalade wrinkles as though it has a skin on it then this indicates that it has reduced enough and will set in a spreadable consistency. If it is not thick enough return to the heat for a further five minutes.
When the marmalade is ready remove the muslin bag from the saucepan and discard. Take out the jars from the oven using tongs or your hands (if you do this by hand ensure not to touch the inside of the now sterilized jars). Using a jam funnel or a steady hand pour the contents of the saucepan into the jars and seal with the lids immediately. As the marmalade and air in the jar cool it will form a part vacuum causing the lid to concave slightly. When you open the cooled marmalade the lid will ‘pop’ open s a result of the vacuum being broken - this is the same sound you hear when you buy store bought jams. Once cooled the jars can be labelled.

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