.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Truffled salsa and creamy egg

The computer is still broken, but hopefully being fixed soon. In the meantime I've looked through my archive of photos waiting to be written about to find something that didn't necessitate bringing in a recipe book to work!
This one comes from a dinner party in February where my friends made the main course and one of the dessert courses, and I brought along some nibblies to have with drinks and two (yes, 2!) other desserts.

Last year a friend was helping another friend pack up their house before they married and moved to Paris, and they offloaded a lot of stuff from their fridge to him. One particularly gourmet item was Tetsuya's Black Truffle Salsa, which I know to be damn expensive. He took one sniff of it and decided it smelled revolting, like it had gone off, and was about to throw it in the bin before he pulled back and thought maybe he'd get me to test it. I did, and I confirmed that yes, that's what truffles were meant to smell like ("like petrol??!" "Yes, like petrol!")....based on my worldy experience of truffles having once had a tiny bottle of truffle oil in the cupboard...ahem.
So, when deciding what canapes to make I thought it'd be a good chance to use up this truffle salsa (ingredients consisting of black truffles, porcini mushrooms, olive oil etc.etc. all top stuff). I recalled that truffles are best served with a quite bland blanket of flavour, like potatoes, pasta or egg, so the flavour (and that petroleum taste) really shines.
I hard boiled up a couple of eggs and mixed them with some King Island Dairy pure cream. Yes, I know - decadent, but we're having truffles here. This is not the time for your Black&Gold dollar dazzler. To this I only added some salt flakes. Nothing else. And I have to say this egg mixed with cream and salt tasted damn good on its own!
I had some trouble with my fancy-pants Scandinavian wafer crackers, in that they wouldn't split into even pieces. They were the perfect raft for the egg & truffle mixture, but next time I'll remember that they must be consumed immediately, otherwise the toppings make them go soggy, and then they're not so great. So, there you go - fancy-pants black truffle and creamy egg canapes. Very, very nice! Perfect with some vintage champagne.

Continue reading

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Apologies for a bit of a break in posts. I switched on the computer on Saturday morning to find it turned on, but nothing kicked in. Nothing booted up. I had nothing but whirring. I had to run out for a rehearsal, and since then we've started recording sessions for our new CD so I simply haven't even had a chance to contact anyone about fixing it! I'm coming home from work, grabbing dinner and running out to recording sessions that finish at 11.30pm. Hmmm.
I'm crossing my fingers that the next time I turn it on it will magically be working. Until then, I'm trying to keep in touch with the world from my desk at work. A backlog of good posts coming once I get set up again!

Continue reading

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Alcoholic hot chocolate

A good pick-me-up for when you're feeling down; exhausted; depressed; cold; in need of chocolate; in need of sugar; in need of a hot, milky, boozy drink; all of the above.
I had an all-of-the-above need that wasn't going to be assuaged by cocoa powder in hot milk, as good as that can be. Chocolate was called for. (actually I had a raging need for a slab of chocolate cake, but that wasn't gonna happen at 10pm...) I remembered a "recipe" for alcoholic hot chocolate in Nigella's Feast and gave it a go.
Loosely, you put in about 50g dark chocolate in a little saucepan with a cup (250ml)of milk and a cinnamon stick. Let it all heat up and melt and turn the colour of Willy Wonka's chocolate river and get all cinnamony. Then add a teaspoon of honey and a dash of vanilla extract (or paste in my case. I love my new vanilla paste) and simmer for a little longer. Don't let it boil over or you'll have a heck of a mess to clean up and that's not what you want at 10pm when you're hanging out for your hot chocolate. Then add a dash of alcohol; just a teaspoon or so because it's quite pervasive and you don't want to kill all those other spicy, honeyery, vanillaery flavours. Nigella suggests rum; that'd be great. But we don't have any rum. I used whisky. And the next night when I decided it was so good I had to repeat the experience, I used brandy. Both are great. But go easy on them.
This beats the pants off my usual dissolved cocoa powder and milk in the microwave thing. It'll be great in winter.

(Incidentally the cup in the photo is possibly the one thing my brother and I may come to blows over when we set up our own houses. It was our great-grandmother's tea cup and is totally unique in that it holds a lot, but is also quite fine and not chunky. My brother has a long history of turning sweet biscuits into a revolting-looking tea-soaked porridge in this cup. It's always the first cup to be used after the dishwasher finishes, and I've been known to rinse it free of gloopy biscuit mush instead of getting a clean one from the cupboard! Many attempts have been made to replicate it and all have failed. For us it's one of a kind.)

Continue reading

Sunday, March 12, 2006

SHF: Walnut & yoghurt cake

Hmmm...not my greatest effort, this one. A fairly stressful week meant I couldn't make any of the dairy things I had in mind for this month's Sugar High Friday, but I had made this cake earlier and it fit the criteria. Unfortunately, I think it's a good example of my inability to follow a recipe to the letter working to my disadvantage. I know some friends who will laugh and say it's what I deserve for playing around with a recipe; yes, I know. But it's a good learning experience. I can take away with me new knowledge and experience and blah blah blah yada yada yada...

I'd been wanting to make a simple walnut cake with chocolate icing from my Sweet Food book, but I had a lot of plain yoghurt leftover. So instead of using the milk that was specified, I decided to use yoghurt. However, using yoghurt instead of milk meant that I had to use quite a bit more of it to create a cake-batter like consistency (preferable to one like Spakfilla!), so it was not only a thicker batter, but more dense. It took forever to cook, and I'd put it in a too-large cake tin anyway, so it came out looking more like a pancake than a cake. Remember, girl, changing the density of cake batter will alter the way it rises and how well it will bake up! Sheesh.

Additionally, I used fat free yoghurt. A no-no. I didn't discover this information until this week when I caught an episode of Anna Olsen's "Sugar", but you can't use fat free yoghurt in baking because its properties change and it just doesn't work (I'd like to find out more about this). When baking you must use the full-fat stuff. Fat-free yoghurt is also much more tangy and acidic, so you won't end up with a full, creamy flavour.
Because I had used yoghurt in the batter, I thought a chocolate icing wouldn't work so well. Instad I mixed up a little icing sugar, a few teaspoons of yoghurt and a litte Queen's vanilla paste (fab stuff. You can probably see all the little black seeds in the topping).
I say it's not one of my best efforts and I stand by that, but it isn't actually a *bad* cake. It's definitely not worthy of the dustbin, but I know I can do better. It's just too dense and seems to lack a little flavour. The fat-free yoghurt mixed with the walnuts just doesn't work and seems to cry out for something like lemon zest or berries mixed through. It's all a little bland, but hey, it's still edible. I'll take it to rehearsal tomorrow with a sign "Eat me! I'm bland but oh-so-wholesome!"
I'll give the recipe below as it originally appears (with milk) because I think it'd be lovely that way!
(For some successful cakes using yoghurt, check the pistachio, cardamom & lime cake, lemon yoghurt babycakes and low fat lemon & blueberry cake.
For some dairy-rich treats see: dark chocolate custard tarts, Honey semifreddo, lemon & ricotta muffins & lime & basil icecream)
Read on for the recipe.

Walnut brown sugar cake

185g butter, softened
95g (1/2 cup) soft brown sugar
2 eggs
185g (1 1/2 cups) self-raising flour
60g (1/2 cup) chopped walnuts
60ml (1/4 cup) milk

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease a 20cm springform tin.

Place butter and sugar in a large bowl. Beat with electric beaters for 5 minutes, or until thick and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well afer each addition. Fold in the flour and the walnuts alternately with the milk until just combined. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before tirning out onto a wire rack to cool.

*The original recipe includes a chooclate icing made by melting 125g dark chocolate with 20g butter, cooled slightly and spread over the cake. I think this would be excellent.
Tagged with +

Continue reading

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Cheesy corn & bacon muffins

In their original recipe these were vegetarian, but this meat-eating girl said balls to that! It's a cheesy corn jalapeno muffin recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, who I admit I don't know very well, but I understand he engenders very passionate reactions in people....mainly negative, I noticed. But I was looking for a savoury muffin recipe, and his looked good, so here it is in adapted form.
Actually, I made these to sell at our monthly church market stall, where I've noticed a lot of the elderly people are diabetic and looking to buy something non-sugary. Plus I thought the addition of crispy bacon might attract extra people. I mean, crispy bacon!...hello?!! Mmmmmmm....

I don't have jalapeno peppers in the house (they're not common in Australia), so I used a few splats of a chilli tomato relish we got for Christmas. You know all those hampers with jars of fancy mustards and relishes you get during the festive season and you open them and use it once at a bbq and then they take up room in the fridge? Well, this is a great way to use some of them up! It's also a good way to use up that carton of buttermilk you bought for a recipe and don't know what to do with (incidentally, I freeze mine if there's some leftover).

These are not light, airy muffins like the ethereal lemon ricotta ones of a few weeks ago. Because of the cornmeal (or polenta) these are quite hearty and could tend towards denseness; make sure you don't overmix the batter. But the taste is excellent and I'm finding the few I kept for myself are great for a breakfast on the run. They freeze well, too. I found that my mixture made way more than the 12 indicated in the recipe (like, 18!). Maybe Emeril makes jumbo-sized muffins? Maybe each muffin should have had more mixture in it? Also, I'm passing on a tip to you lucky readers; if you decide to use paper muffin cups, make sure you grease/spray them first! I found the mixture stuck to the cases something shocking. I felt very foolish forgetting to do that...
Read on for the recipe:

Cheesy corn and bacon muffins
adapted from an Emeril Lagasse recipe

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal (polenta)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch cayenne or chilli powder (optional)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil, or melted butter
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
2-3 tablespoons tomato relish/minced jalapeno peppers/chutney/mustard etc. (Anything with a bit of a spicy kick)

2-3 slices cooked crispy bacon

grated parmesan and rosemary sprigs to decorate

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F). Butter a 12-cup muffin tin with the softened butter and set aside.

Fry or grill the bacon slices until crispy, and cut into small pieces.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cayenne and mix well. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, buttermilk, and oil. Add to the dry ingredients, mixing just until it forms a batter, being careful not to overmix. Fold in the corn, cheese, bacon pieces and relish/jalapenos.

Divide evenly among the 12 muffin cups and sprinkle with a little parmesan, if you like. Poke a small sprig of rosemary on top of each if you want to do the elegant presentation thing. bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit in the muffin tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 12
large muffins (or 18 smaller ones)

Continue reading

Friday, March 03, 2006

Caramel hazelnut chocolate slice

Now, this one's a doozy. Caramel, chocolate, hazelnuts....all the stuff that is good. I made this for the supper we provided after the Danes' concert a few weeks ago. Actually, I made it in advance and froze it, knowing I'd be pretty busy around that time.
Last year the Epicure section of The Age had a feature on slices, starting off with an excellent article about what they are, tips on making them and some good recipes to try. Apparently slices are the quintessential old-fashioned and proud Australian baked sweet, and don't make appearances outside Australian cookbooks. Now that I didn't know! A few weeks later, after hundreds of readers wrote in with their own favourite slice recipes, a follow-up article appeared. This gooey, chocolatey slice is from that second article - and it has the most gorgeous photograph, which is what tempted me to try it.

I didn't have macadamia nuts, which I admit would have made it even more Australian themed, so I used lots of hazelnuts and some pecans. I reckon any nuts would work; you just want a nutty topping. Also, I used skim condensed milk instead of the full fat stuff, which didn't cause any problems. As I said, I made these in advance and froze them. On the day I mixed up the chocolate drizzle topping and waved a spoon crazily and erratically about. My chocolate topping I mixed with a little butter to bulk it out, and make it a bit runnier so I could attempt some classy drizzling effects. My drizzles aren't as sparingly elegant as the photo in the article; I had the more full-bodied, rustic-daaahling approach but, hmmm, I don't think they were so bad. :-)

Surprisingly, this slice isn't too sweet or over-the-top, but yes, it is rich. It helped that I cut it into quite small little bite sized squares. I used a bitter dark chocolate in both the base and the drizzling, which helped with keeping the sweetness to sophisticated adult levels. I was pretty chuffed when half-way through the supper some random elderly Danish woman decided to pick up my platter and work the room, personally encouraging guests to try them. I laughed when she came up to me (I'd sampled more than enough bits when I was cutting them. Cos you know, there were lots of *cough* bodgy bits that I just couldn't serve to the public....*ahem*) and told her I made them. I think I had a fan! But I agree, they did look pretty impressive, and tasted damn good.
Read on for the recipe:

Robyn's caramel, macadamia and hazelnut slice
from The Age Epicure, August 9 2005.

Apparently this is a very forgiving recipe. The first time the tester made it he forgot the egg and overcooked the topping, and yet it was still delicious.


150g (1 cup) plain flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
60g (1/2 cup) hazelnut meal *
90g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
90g dark chocolate
80g unsalted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten


100g hazelnuts
395g tin condensed milk (skim is ok)
2 tbsp golden syrup
50g butter
100g macadamia nuts
100g dark chocolate, melted

(optional: ~20g butter)


· To make the base: Sift flour and cinnamon into a bowl. Stir in hazelnut meal and sugar.

· Melt chocolate and butter together and cool. Add to dry ingredients when cooled. Add egg and mix well.

· Press mixture into lined and greased tin (a standard 18x28- centimetre tray or similar) and bake for 15 minutes at 180C.

· While the slice is baking, toast hazelnuts in the oven for eight minutes. Remove and de-skin by placing in a brown paper bag and rubbing furiously.

- Remove base from oven. Have a cup of tea and bit of a sit with the paper while it cools to room temperature in the tin.

· To make the topping: Mix condensed milk, golden syrup and butter in saucepan and heat, stirring until it almost boils.

· Pour mixture over the base and top with nuts.Bake for 15 minutes and leave to cool.

· Drizzle lines of the melted chocolate (mixed with butter if used) over the top until covered with a lacy coating of chocolate.Cut with a bread knife.

*I think any type of ground nuts would be ok. Ground almonds would be fine. I think it would also be ok with more flour making up the amount of ground nuts, if you didn't want to use them at all. Also, I think wholemeal flour would work well in this base.

Tagged with

Continue reading

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Smoked salmon thingos

Heh. More "thingos". Canapes, perhaps? Things very stressed at the moment. Big, scary concert this weekend. Too much difficult music to learn; being done during work lunch breaks with iPod, score and pencil. New Italian language classes with homework being completed during morning tea breaks. Aieeee!
So, a pretty photo and something easy today. Little smoked salmon appetizer thingos made in conjunction with my friend Belinda (who, coincidentally just posted about "chicken thingies") a few months ago when we were performing in Ballarat. Round of pumpernickel (that were tres difficult to prise apart!), light Philly cream cheese, smoked salmon and lemon juice. If we had've been more organised we would have mixed the cream cheese with the lemon juice and a few capers or herbs or something, because the smoked salmon was very rich. But, hey, we were on holiday, we were relaxed, and I think everyone enjoyed them anyway. The blue plate was courtesy of the rental house. I'm not a fan of coloured food platters, (too Playschool) but this worked. The artistically arranged salmon was all Belinda's work. I'm never so neat. :-)

Continue reading