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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Lemon Ricotta Slice

Another use for the glut of lemons in Melbourne at the moment - a nice, old-fashioned lemon slice. This slice is a bit more unusual than your standard, though, with a smooth, creamy lemon topping made by adding ricotta cheese to the usual lemon, cream and egg mixture, on top of a buttery shortbread base. I guess it's a light, lemony cheesecake in bar form, really.
I actually used cottage cheese in my version, as that's what I had at the time, and I imagined it might make a lighter, more health-conscious topping. The fact of the truckloads of butter in the base seemed to escape me....but I think you could use an olive oil spread or light butter in the base without any significant change in flavour or texture. The cottage cheese instead of ricotta in the topping gave a slightly more grainy texture, which wasn't entirely unpleasant, but I do think ricotta is a better option if you're not as concerned about health, or going to the supermarket late at night, as I was.
I never really grew up with slices; my family didn't make them and I never really went for them in the school tuckshop, so it's a bit of a novelty to play around with a few now. This one is really easy to make and has a good lemony taste. Nothing worse than a lemon slice that isn't lemony enough - I mean, what's the point? This one's a good one.
Read on for the recipe:

Lemon Ricotta Slice
200g (1 3/4 cups) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g butter, melted
210g (1 cup) caster sugar
4 eggs
350g (1 1/3 cups) ricotta cheese
200ml (3/4 cup) cream
2 tablespoons lemon zest
185ml (3/4 cup) lemon juice
icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 180C (350F/Gas 4). Lightly grease a 20x30cm baking tin and line with baking paper, hanging over the two long sides.
Put the flour, baking powder, butter and half the caster sugar in a food processor and process in short bursts until the mixture comes together in a ball. Add 1 egg and process until combined.
Press the mixture into the tin. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Reduce the oven to 150C (300F/Gas 2).
Place the ricotta, cream, lemon zest and juice, the remaining sugar and remaining eggs in the cleaned food processor and combine the ingredients for 1-2 seconds. Pour onto the pastry base and bake for 25-30 minutes - the slice will have a slight wobble at this stage.
Cool slightly, then refrigerate for 2 hours to firm. Cut into pieces. Dust with icing sugar and serve.
Makes 15 pieces.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The big beer ad

This is fabulous hilarious!
It's the latest beer commercial for Carlton Draught using a huge cast flapping about to Orff's O Fortuna chorus, from Carmina Burana (a secular cantata, not an opera as so many journalists think. Just a little pet peeve of mine!). I think it's internet only, as it hasn't been seen on tv (or has it?).
I know, it's already appeared on another Aussie site, but in the interests of showing this ad to as many people as popular, I seized the opportunity to 'borrow' the photo and spread the word. (Thanks Augustus Gloop!)
It's very quick to download. And so very Aussie! You must see it. Fabulous!

Update 28/7 ...and I just discovered two friends with whom I sing are on the soundtrack! The Melbourne Chorale were hired for the gig and I'm told that the first couple of run throughs were full of giggles, but it was a blast.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

A Laughable Disaster!

Well, it happened, and happened spectacularly! Yes, it happens even to the best of us ;-) *SNORT*, and it totally warrants many few cackles of glee through the internet community: look at her mishapen volcano! Is it a science experiment?! What the heck happened to that thing? Yes, even my own mother paused before murmuring 'ummmmmm. Hmmmm'.
Witness the Disaster Cake! Yeah, you wouldn't believe this was supposed to be a lovely, decorated birthday cake for a friend, would you? No? Really? I'm surprised.

So - witness what happens when you decide to halve a recipe to make in your funky new floppy silicone bakeware, but forget to use self-raising flour, realise just before throwing it in the oven, scrape out the entire mixutre and add 1 teaspoon EACH of baking powder and bicarb. Noooo - not for me any checking of quantities for a half-mixture of cake! Noooo - I'll have none of that fact checking and quality control! I'll just chuck in a bagload of chemicals!
And, hence, I'll witness my cake mix rise like Lazarus and begin erupting like Mt Vesuvius. It was fascinating to watch. Just like a car crash. I couldn't tear my eyes away from the carnage of my mixture bubbling and boiling out of its mould all over the oven.
I couldn't save it, because by the time it was cooked it was sloped like a ski run and had no interest in releasing itself from the mould. The final sad creation looked as much like a cake as Big Bird does, and I was left with little time, little patience, and great annoyance.

However, in the past years I've developed my own intestinal fortitude, and no longer want to dissolve into a quivering mess, so I decided to just go with it. The solution? Turn it upside down, put it in a bowl, cover it with chocolate icing and call it a 'chocolate pudding'. We'd eat it with spoons! And I know my friends would laugh with me......and maybe only a little bit at me. :-) I did go to pains to explain to the one girl we didn't know that I am usually pretty good at this sort of thing....and waited for the confirmation from A. It took a distinct silence and severe glare before he came through with 'Oh! Yeah. Her stuff's usually good.' Wow. Thanks. :-P

But, you know, chocolate cake has a magical power, that even bringing a sad, misshapen, laughable creation as mine to finish a lovely dinner party, can't diminish. People love any chocolate cake, and I could have told them I scraped it off the back porch and they still would have been impressed that they had homemade chocolate cake on the table. Maybe not have eaten it, but you never know - some people aren't fussy...
So, we laughed, we served it with spoons and we drank it with coffee after an excellent dinner party.
Happy Birthday Vaughan :-)

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Organic Blood Orange Jelly

Yes, it's cold down here in Melbourne - hence the open fire. :-) And what better than jelly by the fire? Well, Golden Syrup dumplings by the fire, perhaps, but this is for when you're in a lighter mood.
When A. and I were in Adelaide recently I was shown his grandmother's wonderful big garden where she grows so many flowers, fruits and vegetables. As it's the middle of winter, there wasn't much in flower or fruit, apart from her many citrus trees, which bear during the coldest days of the season. Those trees were groaning with fruit, and she encouraged us to take some home with us on the plane back to Melbourne (nb: it's only taking fruit out of Victoria that causes quarantine issues).
Lemon trees are really common in backyards in Melbourne, as evidenced by all the lemon butter I'm making, but you rarely see orange trees. The climate in Adelaide is a bit warmer and drier, and one of the major things I noticed was the amount of people with orange trees in their front yards.
Apart from her lemon trees, she also had mandarins, oranges and....whee! blood oranges!! I was very excited to see that, because you virtually have to sell your own mother to afford blood oranges in Melbourne supermarkets, and blood orange juice seems only available in the funkiest, most expensive cafes.
If you've never seen a blood orange before, they look like normal oranges with the usual coloured skin, but are often a little smaller. The surprise comes when you see their flesh, which is a definite red. Aren't they beautiful?

Blood oranges are usually grown in the warm Mediterranean countries, so Adelaide is a similar climate for them. They have a different taste too; like orange mixed with raspberry perhaps? It's difficult to describe, but the taste is more exciting than a regular orange.
A's nan's oranges are truly organic, grown in her backyard and nourished with real compost from the bins in the yard; and the taste of them was intense and wonderful.
So apart from eating a few alone and juicing a couple for an excellent cold-warding vitamin C shot, I decided to make jelly with the rest, based on a recipe in Jill Dupleix's Simple Food. Although you really don't need to follow a recipe to make jelly - just add gelatine to your juice, and that's it.

Check out the gorgeous colour juice a blood orange gives you; you'd hardly know it was orange juice, would you?

The blood orange jelly was loved by A. who thought it had the right edge of sourness with sweetness, but I found it too sweet. Jill Dupleix must have a sweet tooth! So, I've reduced the amount of sugar in the recipe below. I found that adding fresh passionfruit to the jelly balanced the sweetness for me, and gave a great combination too - another idea you could try? Jelly is so easy to make that it really is worth trying.

Blood Orange Jelly:
200ml water
15g powdered gelatine
150g sugar (test for sweetness)
250ml blood orange juice (3 to 4 oranges depending on size)

Heat the orange juice and water until simmering. Remove from heat and sprinkle over the gelatine. Immediately whisk to combine, leaving no undissolved lumps in the liquid.
Rinse four 100ml moulds with water and shake dry. Fill with the orange liquid, allow to cool, then refrigerate for several hours until set.
To serve, dip the base of each mould in hot water, run a knife around the edge to loosen the jelly and turn onto a serving plate.
Alternatively, fill martini or wine glasses with the liquid, refrigerate and serve, for full glamour effect.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Easy dinner: creamy lentils with sumac lamb chops

Inspired by a recent post by Kitchen Hand, I took a walk down the street to buy some babaganoush to make his fast meal of creamy lentils with sumac grilled chicken breasts. I loved the idea, and felt like slapping myself around the head for not thinking of it earlier, but after coming home I discovered the chicken breasts I thought were in the freezer were no longer. Bugger! I didn't want to go out again, so the choice was between some frozen flathead fillets or some little lamb chops; the yummy ones with the tail. My decision was easy; cold night...hungry....lamb chops.
The lentils are so easy to make; just boil up a can of lentils in its juice then drain and add 2 tablespoons of babaganoush (smoky eggplant and tahini dip) and some lemon juice until thickened. I added a generous handful of fresh parsley and coriander toward the end. On top of this I had two pan-grilled lamb chops sprinkled with sumac and garlic. I had some leftover roast pumpkin and lettuce, so I had a fully balanced meal. :-)
This was so tasty that I went out today and bought another few cans of lentil to keep for when I want I want to make it again, which will be pretty soon I imagine. Next time I'll try it with chicken breasts, but it was pretty darn good with lamb!
Thanks Kitchen Hand for such a quick and tasty idea.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

The Cook Next Door: a meme

It's been weeks, maybe months, since I've been tagged for this, so I've finally got around to it. I must be the last person in the foodblogging hemisphere to do this; my apologies.
So, I present you all with the long table above, set for a virtual dinner that all us foodbloggers can enjoy, now that we've all introduced ourselves properly!
What is your first memory of baking/cooking on your own?
My brother and I would often spend school holiday time staying with my grandmother about an hour from Melbourne near the start of the Victorian High Country. The Man From Snowy River-type forests and chilly weather in winter. I remember reading by open fires, and begging my nanny to bake biscuits with her. She always said yes, as long as we ate everything we made; my brother and I didn't have a problem there! Somedays we baked every day; plain sugar biscuits, coconut drops, cookie kisses etc. which would fog up the windows and give me every opportunity to explore her amazingly stocked walk-in pantry. It was a gold mine in there!
I also remember sausage sizzles by the river bed in summer, and hot potatoes roasted in the coals of bonfires in the neighbouring paddock on winter nights.
Completely on my own? I remember in the one semester of cooking classes we had in year 8 learning to bake fish in filo pastry, and asking my parents if I could make it for dinner one Saturday night. The family went out for the afternoon and came home to their first dinner cooked by me. I think it went well...

Who had the most influence on your cooking?
Probably my mum and dad, as I grew up with parents who enjoyed cooking and did it very well. Mum always went to a bit of extra effort making tasty meals for dinner every night, which we ate together as a family at the dinner table. Meals were always perfectly garnished with a sprig of parsley and artistically arranged. This annoyed me sometimes as a teenager, but with maturity I'm very impressed by that!
Also, the TV cooking shows that dad and I watched obsessively as I grew up. We'd often try things we saw or experiment with new ingredients. Since then I've done a lot of reading, and I'm most inspired and excited by the British chefs around at the moment.

Do you have an old photo as “evidence” of an early exposure to the culinary world and would you like to share it?

Nothing that I'm showing here! I do have a great photo of me with pig intestines in hand, making home-made salami with the Italian relatives when I was 14. It looks so woggy, the only thing missing is the knotted hanky on my head!
Read on for more information!

Mageiricophobia - do you suffer from any cooking phobia, a dish that makes your palms sweat?
I'm a bit intimidated by classical French cooking; anything that involves fiddly, last-minute, capricious sauces or turned vegetables. But, my biggest obstacle so far is yeast cookery. I'd like to make my own bread, but I haven't yet built up the courage to devote the time and energy to it. And the one foray into yeasted buns this year was a complete disaster, which hasn't inspired much confidence!

What would be your most valued or used kitchen gadgets and/or what was the biggest letdown?
I recently wrote about our wonderful Gaggenau oven and cooktop, which I adore. I also love my red Italian kitchen scales A. bought me last year after I complained so much about the rubbish one I had. My scales are a spunky bright red, measure accurately up to a kilo and used every couple of days. And as they were a spontaneous present from him, I value them even more. Flowers and chocolates are all well and good, but nothing shows you care more than a good kitchen appliance!

The biggest letdowns have been those gimmicky gadgets that reckon they can finely chop herbs. They look like a mini-rolling pin with a line of circular blades. No they can't. AND the herbs get stuck inside. Nothing is better than a good knife and chopping board.

Name some funny or weird food combinations/dishes you really like - and probably no one else!
When I was at uni and living cheaply, one of my favourite combinations was 2-minute noodles with Thai fish sauce AND parmesan cheese. Yes...I know, totally revolting! Dairy and Asian?? But both are salty, and I like salty....although realistically I don't think I'd ever convince anyone to enjoy the combination.
My family also really enjoy Vegemite risotto, which is something my father 'invented' as a teenager. Instead of hot stock, use LOTS of butter, parmesan cheese, and a big tablespoon of Vegemite. A big, salty, creamy bowl of rice on a cold night...yum! It was something only my dad could cook well, although my brother does a pretty mean version now.

What are the three eatables or dishes you simply don’t want to live without?
-My nonna's chicken broth with pastina - that's my desert island dish.
-A pan-grilled steak with steamed green vegetables - my favourite quick meal. I'm definitely a protein and vegetable person.
-Blue cheese, as strong, smelly, creamy and palate-burning as possible.

And I have to include a fourth! - dark chocolate in any form...but particularly the truffles from Koko Black.
Ooooh - and satays from Golden Orchids in Chinatown. The first place to serve satays in Australia, and still the best. We eat their peanut sauce by the soup spoon!

Your favorite ice-cream

I do love Charmaine's chocolate chili flavour, when I can justify the expense of a single scoop. I also love the fruit sorbet flavours at Trampoline in Brunswick street - blood orange, passionfruit, grapefruit...all fantastic on a hot summer night.

You will probably never eat
Deep fried cockroaches. Or crispy fried spiders. Both are 'delicacies' my friends who have visited China have spoken about. And both things that make me me shudder in horror. Nope - not a chance.

Which one culture's food would you most like to sample on its home turf?
I'd like to return to Japan, this time with an unlimited expense account! I love Japanese food, and what we tasted over there was incredible. I can only imagine what it'd be like if we had more money and a local guide to show us the more best places to eat.
Also, you really can't beat Italian food in Italy; the vegetables have more flavour and the simple flavour combinations work in a way they just don't when you come back home and try to recreate what you tasted. I remember the simplicity of a thin pizza with rocket that blew me away, and a panini with air-dried beef that was simply the best sandwich I've ever tasted.

Any signs that this passion is going slightly over the edge and may need intervention?
Not yet. I still have the goodwill and fascination of family and friends for the foodblogging world in general, but I wonder how long that will last?!

Who would you want to come into your kitchen to cook dinner for you?
I'd love to be cooked dinner in my home by a big-name chef like Gordon Ramsey, Teague Ezard or Thomas Keller. But I would be equally as enthusiastic to have a big meal cooked for me by my own mum, who is one of the best home cooks I know, made up of all the things we loved when growing up.

Who's your favorite food writer
[General food writing] I adore Jeffrey Steingarten's writing and the extent to which he will research to prove a point or provide an interesting story. I wish I had access to more than his 2 published books.
[Cookbooks] I do love Nigella's easy, tongue-in-cheek style and the multiple literary references she makes that make me snigger in recognition. She also makes so much damn sense in her early books about eating to lose weight, and cooking for children.
I've recently got into Nigel Slater, and I enjoy him for similar reasons; he's completely down to earth and not interested in fripperies or pretension. On a similar level, I have a real fondness for Australia's own Jill Dupleix, now Cookery Writer for The Times in London. She writes in such a blunt, humourous style that, to me, reflects the Australian way of life.

Who will I pass this onto?
I think everybody has been tagged by now, and if they haven't yet done it, they have probably chosen not to participate. So I'll leave it as an open invitation for anyone not yet tagged, who would like to get involved.

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Fantastic Hot Cheese Puffs!

Along with the lemon meringue tarts, I brough along our family's signature hot nibblies to have at the cocktail party last weekend. These are little gooorgeous little things my mum found in a Woman's Weekly Dinner Party cookbook from the mid-80s, and has been making ever since. I cannot stress how good these are, and how anybody who has tasted them before gets very excited if they know they're on the menu. My brother even eats the filling straight from the bowl, cold from the fridge if given a chance. That takes some dedication!

Quite simply they are little choux pastry puffs filled with a cheese & bacon filling, served hot from the oven. They are creamy, cheesy and salty, therefore perfect with drinks! The recipe gives a recipe to make your own choux pastry, but we've never bothered because it is so easy to buy packets of the Italian profiteroles (called bigne) to fill yourself from markets or delis. The ready made profiteroles are also crunchier and better for keeping their structural integrity when stuffed with filling. In my experience, home-made choux pastry tends towards the flabby, soggy side. What better experience after having a few strong drinks to bite into a crispy, crunchy shell filled with creamy cheesy filling? None better, in my eyes.

The filling is so very easy to make, and these are some of the simplest and most effective finger foods you can offer, if you need to provide something hot as an appetiser or with drinks. We actually use that Kraft cheese that comes wrapped in tinfoil in a block - so plastic that it doesn't even need to be sold refrigerated! However, after experimenting with other cheeses, the industrial stuff is actually the most suitable for this recipe; it provides the necessary salt and melting structure best suited to the filling. But feel free to use something less plastic, and more palatable!
I cannot recommend these little cheesy poofs highly enough; I assure you that you'll love them, as everyone down here does.

These were served a few hours into my friends (now infamous) cocktail party on the weekend. He leaves on Saturday to spend about 3 years teaching English in Japan, and had one final big party to farewell everybody. We were asked to dress very formally, bring a bottle of something lurid and full-strength, and would listen to cheesy 50s lounge music....which lasted until an hour into the gig, when the plastic cups were broken out, the bow ties came off, and the 80s pop came on. I haven't had a night that big for years; I spent all Sunday moaning in bed vowing that I would never touch alcohol again, wondering how I got home, trying to ignore the ceiling spinning around my head, and remembering various things I did or said that made me cringe. I remember my friend starting to clear up at 4am (why was I still there?!), and taking out some bottles, only to jump right back inside looking perplexed:
"I can't put these in the bin. There are people kissing in the bin!"
Yep, it's just not a good party unless there a bin kissers, you know.

So, here's my little piece of Maiden Aunt advice to you young whipper snappers: it's never a good idea to get drunk by mixing lots of full-strength liquers! I remember drinking something at one stage that I'm sure tasted like cloves mixed with chocolate mint. That's what you do when you hand your glass to whoever is experimenting the table at the time. YUCK!
Ooof - that was enough for this girl. I'm happy to live quietly and soberly again until my friend returns from Japan and plan his welcome home party! But I'm happy to say that the cheesy poofs were very eagerly received, and I watched with a laugh those who had tasted them before grab a whole handful before passing the plate along!
Read on for the recipe:

The infamous cocktail table. Pretty scary, eh?

Fantabulous Hot Cheese Puffs

I packet of small bigne (profiteroles)
30g (1oz) butter
1 tablespoon plain flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup grated cheese (Kraft soap block is perfect!)
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 rashers bacon
4 spring onions
salt, peppr

Melt butter in pan, add flour, cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add milk, stir until sauce boils and thickens. Remove from heat, add cheeses, stir until cheese melts.
Chop bacon finely, add to dry pan, cook until crisp, add chopped spring onions, cook further 1 minute. Add bacon mixture to sauce. Add salt & pepper.
Slice each bigne in half and fill with a spoonful of filling. Don't overfill, as the filling may spill over when heated. Replace with top of bigne and sprinkle with Parmesan.
To serve, place in a hot oven (~190) for about 10 minutes, until filling is heated through and the bigne are nice and crisp.

Note: a double portion of the filling is enough for 1 packet of small bigne (30 pieces)

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Aux Batifolles Brasserie

Have you ever discovered a restaurant so perfect for your needs that you can't quite believe it? One that's so good that you're torn between telling everybody you know of its charms, and keeping it all to yourself so you'll never miss out on a table? I found such a place late last year after reading a great review in Epicure (The Age). It's a newish little French brasserie, tucked away on a suburban strip of Nicholson St, North Fitzroy. Having driven past and noticed it a few times, then read the review I thought it would be a good idea to try it. For us, the most attractive aspect of the review was the mention of the very cheap prices; entrees from $6-$15 and the most expensive main at $25, with most in the high teens.

I've since been back three times, twice with a group of friends from uni who loved it so much, they asked to return a few weeks later. Twice we've tried snails, both in the shell and out; and can admit that we really enjoyed them (and enjoyed playing a little Pretty Woman fantasy with our scary shell pincers). Each time I've been with my uni friends, we've ordered an entree each to share - mainly seafood, which is their specialty. So far we've enjoyed the most amazing scallops any of us have tasted, on a celeriac mash with truffle oil ($12), oysters with hollandaise and spinach ($18 dozen), those snails, some excellent pates and terrines ($7/13) and smoked salmon with a dill cream. These all come with fairly good baguette, which would be a little better warmed.

Mains are all incredibly cheap - from an enormous dish of mussels in a saffron cream sauce and fries ($12), to steak frites ($15), steak tartare ($15. Tried by me as an experiment, and adored!), lamb cutlets ($18) and duck confit ($20). The most expensive main is filet of beef bearnaise at $25. But, a group of you could just as easily fill up on shared entrees, or choose a light meal like an omelette or composed salad ($8-$12).

I have to admit we've never made it to desserts. What kind of women are we?? There is always a choice of about 3 on a board; we were very tempted by profiteroles in chocolate sauce once. But they range from creme brulee to pears poached in red wine with an almond pithivier, and all cost $6-$7. Amazing. How often can you come out from an excellent dinner and a glass of wine with change from $40? Those prices for that sort of food are virtually unknown in Melbourne nowdays.

Aux Batifolles is a cosy type of place, evidently owned and run by the same people. The staff all appear to be imported directly from France and have the most delightful accents; this is the place to try out your restaurant-menu French! There is a sizeable wine list, which is also notable for its affordability and good quality.
I only hope that this restaurant continues to receive the patronage it deserves, and doesn't fall into the trap of raising its prices, and thus, losing its established clientele. Everybody should have a French restaurant this cheap and this good easily accessible to them. Good on them for having the courage to do this, in a fairly obscure location, and with such affordable prices. It achieves that rare function of being perfect for catchup dinners with friends, a place to take your parents, and somewhere for an intimate dinner for two. Very highly recommended.
(The Age review is here, for additional information)

Aux Batifolles (website under construction)
400 Nicholson Street
Fitzroy North, VIC 3068
Cross street: Newry Street
Phone: (03) 9481-5015

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Monday, July 18, 2005

Lemon Meringue Tarts

I had a cocktail party to go to on Saturday night and apart from each guest being asked to bring a bottle of something (preferably lurid and potent) we were asked if we could provide any food. I think I was the only one who actually did, other than the host, and as we turned up after performing in a concert without having had dinner, I think we ate a large portion of what I bought!
I don't know when I thought of making little tartlets with the lemon butter I'd made recently, but I think it was a good idea, and pretty easy to do. I went to the effort of making my own pastry, but it's really not something you'd have to do. Frozen shortcrust would be just fine. I worry that I'm taking this domestic spirit thing too far, but I have to admit that the recipe I found for pate brisee is so damn easy that even I haven't had a problem making it, and when it comes to anything fiddly or capricious my fingers turn into thumbs. It also helps that it's the best pastry I've ever tasted - so light and full of flavour - and it's made in the food processor. Thank you Pascal, via Clothilde!
So, with pastry shells made and baked, I stored them for about a week before finishing them on the day (another virtue of this pastry, it keeps well). Filled them with a spoon of lemon butter before adding a dollop of meringue I'd made with 2 egg whites, 1/2 cup caster sugar and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. Add the sugar gradually so it dissolves between each addition. Easy as.
Making the meringue adhere to the tarts with any degree of artistic effort was pretty difficult and again my fingers failed me, but I survived to the end to sprinkle them with some raw caster sugar (made by CSR, and tastier than the normal stuff) place them in a hot (200c) oven for about 7 minutes until slightly browned and crisp.
Something like this could be a sugar overload, but a good home-made lemon butter is sour enough for the balance to work between marshmallow-like meringue, creamy sour lemon butter and the crisp tart shell. And at about 1am, with at least 4 cocktails already into us, these were pretty widely appreciated!

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Saturday, July 16, 2005

SHF: Dutch Honeycake (Honigkoek)

Readers of this site will know that I'm on a search to find a good Dutch honigkoek recipe, following the dismal failure of the recipe I have (flat as a pancake!). As I wrote in that post: honigkoek is a traditional Germanic bread/cake that is usually sliced and spread with butter, or cheese and really comes into its own when toasted. It has a wonderful taste of honey and lots of spices to make it taste almost Christmassy - usually cinnamon, cardamom and ground cloves. It's not too sweet, but almost slightly bitter and caramelly.
Yes, it's easily available in loaves, but my domestic spirit has won out and I want to create my own. So, when Nic announced that this Sugar High Friday theme would be honey, I didn't even have to think about what I would make. It was honigkoek research time!
My research basically involved the internet. A. did suggest contacting his Opa's wife over in the Netherlands, but, you know, I baulked at the long distance phone call and the language barriers I'd face (despite Dutch sounding a bit to me like a country yokel farmer from far north England!). I narrowed my results down to two recipes; one actually in Dutch and one in English. As both didn't contain any butter or eggs, which is normal, I had enough ingredients to try both.
I ran the Dutch recipe through Babel Fish translater and burst out laughing. Luckily the recipe was simple enough for me to figure out what it meant, but try reading this without giggling:

-The cakevorm to grease with margarine and thinly with flower powers.
-The self-rising barge flour, it salt and the kruiden seven.
-Add brown sugar, honey and milk and this to a smooth seizure stirs.
-The seizure in the cakevorm create.
-A velletje vetvrij greases paper and on the seizure lay.
-The form at the bottom of a moderately warm furnace (160°C) slide and the wafer 1 à 1¼ hours bake.
-After ± ¾ hour the papiertje obtains eraf.
-To the wafer on a grating from to let fume and the wafer in aluminium foil to keep.

Giggling to myself about flower powers and seizures in my mixing bowl, I slapped together something that resembled a very dry cake batter. I needed to add 3 times the amount of milk specified to make something vaguely wet, and the finished product was still a little dry and crumbly, but the flavour and general texture was excellent. Yes, I know these are supposed to be baked in loaf pans, but the only one I have is far too wide. I need a European style thin, but tall pan.
The second recipe I tried was the one in the ring pan. It was written in English and had less honey, but some ginger added. It was definitely a more moist cake, but lacked the intensity of flavour and toothsome chewiness of the Dutch recipe.
What you see below is a platter I took to a committee meeting, of slices of the second cake. This type of cake really needs to be buttered, but if you stick to light butter/margarine you still have quite a healthy cake, as was appreciated by the women. For the boys I covered a few in my own plum and nectarine jam.

Yes, it worked well, but the real triumph was in the smaller Dutch recipe cake which I sent with A. to Adelaide for his family to try. It kept well, and despite the slight crumbliness which can be fixed with more milk, it was the definite winner of the two. Not really surprising, considering it comes from the geographic source.
So, I think I've finally found my honigkoek recipe. Thank you Nic and Sugar High Friday! :-)
PS - I also have a pretty excellent recipe for Honeyed Figs, about which I've posted. Dried figs plumped up with honey and oranges and spiced with cardamom and bay leaves....mmmmm!
Read on for the recipe:

Dutch Honeycake (Honigkoek)
aka: Breakfast cake
(translated by me!)

Cake tin 20X10 cm
Greaseproof paper

250g self-raising flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
100g brown sugar
100g honey
150-200ml milk (until you reach a desirable consistency)

-Preheat your oven to 160 celsius.
-Grease your cake tin
-Combine the flour, salt and spices in a large bowl
-Add the brown sugar, honey and milk to create a smooth batter and spoon into the cake tin
-Cover with a sheet of greaseproof paper and place in the oven
-Bake for 1 - 1 1/4 hours. After 3/4 hour remove the sheet of paper from the surface.
-Let cool in the tin, and store wrapped in alumnium foil
-Best served with butter, preferably toasted.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake

Hehe, another decadent chocolate cake to add to the archives. This one has the benefit of being both extremely moist and rich, but also flourless and, thus, suitable for those avoiding wheat flour or the gluten intolerant. I made this for my mum's birthday last week, knowing that amongst the crowd who would eat it would be three men who are not overly fond of sweet food, and a group of women who love moist cakes with lashings of thick cream. I thought this would fit the bill perfectly.
I should explain why this cake suits those who don't usually like sweets; the oranges which make up the bulk of the cake are boiled whole (yes, unpeeled) for 2 hours until really soft, and then whizzed in the food processor - skin, pith and all until a mush is formed. The inclusion of the skin and pith creates a cake that is not too sweet in flavour, and yet without a trace of the bitterness you get with uncooked orange peel. This recipe is middle-eastern in origin and there doesn't seem to be a cookbook or trendy cafe around nowdays which doesn't include it. I have it in both Stephanie Alexander's Cook's Companion and Nigella Lawson's How To Eat, and both credit Claudia Roden for the first published recipe of it.
The cake is given its structural integrity by adding ground almonds and eggs, and sweetened with some sugar. All thrown in the food processor. Basically it's the easiest cake you can make, and yet one of the most impressive. It has the taste and texture of a cake doused in syrup, without the tediousness of doing so, and without the excessive sweetness that involves. It's both wet and light, and keeps for ages without going stale.
But I haven't yet mentioned the chocolate inclusion, have I? I've only ever seen this as an orange cake. To add chocolate sounds so very wrong, but in Nigella's Feast she includes a version to which she adds a hefty dose of good cocoa powder. Australians who have ever tasted a Jaffa, or Brits who like a good Terry's dark chocolate orange, this is a very posh version of that taste. Surpringly (for me) it works better than I expected; neither flavour is overpowering, rather they complement each other really well.

I know that adding a decadent chocolate ganache to such a cake is the antithesis of what it should be, as it derives from the Jewish period of Passover when dairy products are not consumed. I did worry that it would be overkill on such a moist cake, but it worked SO very well. It made the cake look a bit more special and glam, and the icing gave a textural change that, I think, was welcomed. I made sure I stuck with bittersweet chocolate so as not to create new flavours, and hope I haven't offended any people who firmly believe such a cake shouldn't be iced, but I do think I've discovered a wonderful new food pairing!
I think this was a very popular cake. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it and were fascinated by the concept of adding whole, pureed oranges without making it taste horrible. The best indicator for me, though, was seeing the men enjoy it as much as the women!
Read on for the recipe:

Flourless Chocolate Orange Cake
Inspired by both Claudia Roden & Nigella Lawson

Unpeeled oranges (or other orangey citrus) to the weight of approx 375g
6 eggs
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200g ground almonds
150g caster sugar
50g Dutch cocoa

200g dark chocolate
200ml cream

-Put the whole, unpeeled oranges in a saucepan with cold water to cover and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and cook for 2 hours or until soft. -Drain, and when cool, cut the oranges in quarters and remove any big pips.
Place everything - peel, pith and all - in a food processor.
-Cool the fruit before proceeding with the next step. Often it's best to complete the cooking of the fruit the day before.
-Preheat oven to 180C and line a 20cm springform (or standard) tin. Lining it is very important, if you want to remove your cake later; a double layer of paper is a good idea.
-Add the eggs, baking powder, bicarb, almonds, sugar and cocoa to the oranges in the food processor. Process until you have what looks like a cake mixture with a few knobbly bits of pureed orange.
-Pour and scrape into the cake tin and bake for an hour, by which time a skewer should emerge fairly clean. Start checking after 45 minutes, as you may have to cover with foil to stop the surface burning. It may take up to 1 1/2 hours to cook through, depending on your oven.
-Leave the cake to cool in its tin and remove when cold.
-To make the ganache, heat the cream in a heavy saucepan and add the chocolate off the heat. Mix until combined, then whisk until the mixture cools and becomes thick and glossy, ~5-10 minutes, and apply with a spatula or cake knife. Decorate with pieces of orange peel if you so desire.

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Haigh's Chocolate Factory Tour

I'm back from a really enjoyable few days in Adelaide. It was extremely cold and wet there, moreso than Melbourne!, but we enjoyed lots of time in front of open fires and a wonderful evening exploring the very grand Mt Lofty House in the Adelaide Hills, where our friend is acting as caretaker.
Our tour of the chocolate factory was on Monday, which I didn't realise was the first day of the SA school holidays; so it was quite busy! Haigh's is a very small family business, who encourage traditional skills and maintain as much human involvement in the chocolate making process as possible. They still hand dip and hand decorate all chocolates, which is a lost skill in most chocolate factories.
The smell walking in was very yummy, but soon became overwhelming. I'm not sure how I could cope if working there; the very sweet smell combined with the noise of the machines made for a fairly high stress environment for somebody like me, who loves a quiet workplace. Haigh's had put on extra tours, and the woman taking them seemed a bit harrassed. I have to say I was a little underwhelemed by the tour; we didn't get a chance to see the chocolate from its raw cocoa bean form being made into the chocolate we know. Rather, the tour shows the final stages of decorating and packing, which is also very interesting, and now I have a deeper appreciation for the higher cost of the chocolates, but I really did want to see how chocolate was made! No cameras allowed on the factory floor, so I'm afraid I don't have any photos to show you, other than the shop.
What did annoy me most of all was that the woman taking the tour shouted loudly the whole time and didn't leave any opportunity to ask questions. But most of all, I resented the fact that she addressed the whole tour to the 4 children in the group, and pretty much ignored the 15 adults. I had lots of things I wanted to ask, but trying to get in was impossible. At one stage I was burning up with curiosity watching some workers unloading small sacks with a very obvious label of Callebaut on them. Callebaut? The French chocolate makers? Why were Haighs, who proudly adverstise that they are the only chocolate factory to make their own chocolate from the raw bean, receiving deliveries from a French chocolate factory? The sacks were too small to be beans. What could they be? I shouted out my question while our tour leader was taking a breath, and she most obviously didn't answer it! Rather, she started explaining the packing process going on at the next table. Hmmmmm. Was she ignoring me, or did she misunderstand? Had I uncovered a conspiracy at the Haigh's factory? Was I going to be snatched by men in dark suits and taken away for questioning?
I gave her the benefit of the doubt and turned my attention to the amazing hand-dipping process going on in front of us. There are some serious artisinal skills maintained at Haighs, and all the staff look really happy to be working there. They're allowed to eat as much chocolate as they want, but not while they're working. I think I'd find it very difficult not to pop one in my mouth as it passed from table to fork to table!
I managed to sideline our guide at the end of the tour to ask the questions. She was most obviously distracted and keen to finish, and definitely not interested in being asked a question. Her answer of "I have no idea" and a shrug to the Callebaut sacks didn't encourage me to pursue the issue any further. If anyone out there knows the answer, I'd love to know, but I was certainly not getting it from her! I also really wanted to ask about Haigh's policy on Fair Trade sourcing, as raised by Owen in a comment recently. Australia only has Green & Black Fair Trade chocolate, and I was really interested to find out what Haigh's view was about it. But there was no chance I could ask that. To be honest, I'm not certain our guide would have known what it meant. She was skilled at entertaining children, but I don't know how she would cope with questions from adults.
Later we received our free handful of chocolates, and were let loose in the store. Essentially it's just a standard retail store, with prices the same as all the others, but they do have a seconds and discontinued section where I bought a bag of assorted dark chocolate bars - marshmallow, cappuccino, nougat etc. (very nice!) and a bag of various truffles to try (also very good). I have now realised I much prefer their truffles to their filled chocolates, which are too sweet and gooey. I've eaten everything I bought already, which is very greedy of me. But once you get on a roll.....
If you're in Adelaide it's certainly worth going along for a look. The tours are free, so it is a bit precious of me to write about how I wasn't very impressed by it, but going during school term-time might be a very different experience.

Haigh's Chocolate Visitors Centre
154 Greenhill Road
Parkside SA 5000
Tour Bookings:(08) 8372 7077
Tel: (08) 8372 7070

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Saturday, July 09, 2005


In about 12 hours I'm leaving for Adelaide, but before then I have a birthday dinner for friends at a great little French brasserie, and hopefully getting a decent amount of sleep. Speaking of great little restaurants in Melbourne, I've been wondering for a while how many readers are actually from Melbourne? You see, I'm feeling a little lonesome here plugging away at this blog, watching the Sydney foodblogging community explode in size. Of the three I have listed in Melbourne, Esther has just announced her departure, and with his brand new baby, I'm not sure how much time Kitchen Hand will have for blogging! In any case, we both would like company. It's easy to set up a foodblog, you know!
But it's readers I'm also interested in. I have a number of little cafes and restaurants I've tried about which I've been considering writing brief reviews. But I know I've been guilty of clicking on to the next blog when I find a review of places in, say, San Diego or Seattle. Sure, they'd be a fantastic resource if/when I visit those places, but for me right now, limited in time and hungry for instant entertainment, they don't do it for me.
So, a large reason I would put up short reviews of places in Melbourne (such as the fabulous little French place tonight) would be if there are enough readers in Melbourne interested in such a thing. So, please drop a comment if you're a suave Melbournian, shivering through our winter. If you've never left a comment before, this is your chance (friends, family...you know who you are...!).
I leave you with a tempting box of Chocolatier chocolates my mum received for her birthday yesterday. I can only dream of getting a box of such quality chocolates with couverture imported from Belgium. But, they're all hers to enjoy.

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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Lemon butter

What do you do when you're given a huge bag of lemons from somebody's tree in the dead of winter? Enormous batches of hot lemon, honey and ginger drinks to sell at work might be a good idea, but huge batches of refreshing lemonade would not.
I decided on lemon butter, or lemon curd as it's variously known in other bits of the world. If you've ever visited a school fete or church market stall you'll know that lemon butter is the money item. Yes, your plum jams, marmalades and pickle chutneys are all good, but it's the lemon butter that gets people really excited. It's really a visual thing; they walk up to the table, feverishly scan the collection searching out their one desired item...when they spot it their eyes light up and their hand jumps out to grab it before somebody else can nab their prize. Somebody told me that their boyfriend makes them stop whatever they're doing whenever they see a sign for a school fete or church fair, just to satisfy his lemon butter craving. I kindly donated a jar to his cause.
Essentially lemon butter is just a custard with juice instead of milk, so you must be careful when cooking it so it doesn't curdle. I had been warned to avoid any recipe which had large amounts of butter in it, as too often all the butter didn't incorporate and the jars were left with a large layer of liquid butter on top. I think this is a good tip.
I don't know many people who don't like the tangy sweetness of lemon butter. Great as a filling in tarts and cakes, it's also perfect on a slice of toast or spread on a Butternut Snap biscuit (heated for a few seconds in the microwave...bliss!). Personally, I love eating it by the spoonful, while standing in front of an open fridge. But that doesn't make it last that long...

A homemade jar of lemon butter is a perfect gift idea, but I made it to sell at our monthly church market stall where, yes, it sold before the jams did. :-)
Read on for the recipe:

Lemon Butter
Recipe inspired by Nigella Lawson, method courtesy of Stephanie Alexander.
This recipe can be increased by however many lemons you have. I tripled it, which gave just under a litre; enough for 8 small jars.

75g butter
3 large eggs
75g caster sugar
125ml lemon juice
zest 1 lemon
cleaned & sterilsed jars

Finely grate zest and juice lemons. In a heavy-based saucepan, combine butter, lemon juice, zest and sugar. Stir constantly over heat until sugar has dissolved. Add eggs off the heat and stir to mix well. Cook over gently heat, stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened (this will take some time for a larger batch). Do not allow it to boil or it will curdle. Pour straight into small, hot, sterilsed jars* or into a bowl if using immediately.

*I find that putting jars through a hot dishwasher cycle does a great job of cleaning and sterilising them.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Adelaide - Wine & Chocolate

At the hour of sparrow's fart on Sunday morning I'm flying to Adelaide for 3 days, to join A. who leaves for a week's holiday and family visiting tomorrow. He grew up in this City of Churches, or 'the Festival City' as they prefer to be known, and I've only visited once for a few days. I was taken by the place, and have been looking forward to a return for a few years.
For all that Melbourne & Sydney fight it out for food capital of Australia, Adelaide does have a serious claim as well; so much of our interesting produce comes from South Australia. Maggie Beer on Kangaroo Island raising the best chickens and fruits, fantastic crayfish from Robe, jams and oils from the Adelaide Hills, one of the only specialist chocolate retailers in the world whose chocolate making still begins with the raw cocoa bean, and the rather minor fact that something like 80% of Australia's wine is grown and produced within an hour of Adelaide: the Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, Maclaren Vale and Adelaide Hills are all within easy driving distance of the city (though I wouldn't recommend driving back!)
Although I don't have much time available, I've already decided on a visit to the National Wine Centre and yes, Aussie foodbloggers will be pleased to know that I've already booked my place on the tour of the Haigh's chocolate factory. The free! 30 minute tour shows us how chocolate is made from the cocoa bean crushing right up to the wrapping of the chocolates. We get a free chocolate tasting, and then are let loose in the factory shop, which includes their current line, plus factory seconds, broken bars and discontinued lines. I can foresee a very enjoyable afternoon that day!

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Pomegranate & Pistachio cakes

For the market stall I participated in recently, I made not only the chocolate brownies below, but some lemon butter (still to come) and these pomegranate & pistachio cupcakes. Last time when I made the pomegranate and berry cakes, they were admired and snapped up so quickly that I decided to do something with my pomegranate molasses again.
I deciede to try a different base recipe this time, as I had some leftover yoghurt that needed to be used up, so the recipe for the lemon-yoghurt baby cakes I've made before fit perfectly; few ingredients and mainly all kitchen staples.
After taking these out of the oven, and while they were still hot I brushed them with the pomegranate molasses to give a tangy, sticky glaze and then added some chopped pistachios. Next time I would toast the pistachios, or add them before baking. I think the taste could be further brought out.
Of the two pomegranate cupcake recipes I've made, I think I preferred the first one. It had a lighter texture and carried the flavour better. And it had a far superior crispy crust! These were also good, but maybe better suited to what they are originally, lemon-yoghurt with a tangy lemon icing.
Recipe can be found in this post:

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Monday, July 04, 2005

Lamb Perfection!

I know, I seem to be in a lamb fixation right now, but I couldn't not take a photo of what I consider to be the finest piece of lamb I have ever cooked acidentally. This is the other 3 cutlet portion of the lamb rack I made with Stephanie's excellent mustard marinade.
I threw this in the oven as I was writing the Utensibility meme below, and forgot to take notice of the time. I then forgot about the time and rushed back in to the kitchen because of the meaty smell wafting through the house. The mustard crust was dark and dry and I assumed I've totally overcooked the meat. Bah - there's nothing worse than well-done lamb.
But then, cutting into the first chop. Whoa! Incredible! It looked like lamb you see in fancy recipe books!
Extremely happy with this one. Only wish I could replicate it. I have no idea how long I cooked it!

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Utensibility Week

It's a day after Utensibility Week ended, but I hope Sam is still collecting entries because, like Zara Maria, I am keen to wax lyrical about our European oven and cooktop as my money-no-object splurge kitchen utensil.
Gaggenau is a German company that makes high quality (and high cost) kitchen items, but one which is still relatively unknown in Australia. 7 years ago when my parents were looking for kitchen items when building our new house they went to many places. They had European appliances in mind, as they really are better quality than the Australian companies. We are a family who love food, and back then my parents did quite a bit of entertaining. The kitchen was to be focal point for the house, and the appliances would reflect that.
But the thing that disappointed my mum so much was that she couldn't find any company making ovens big enough. Miele, Smeg, Westinghouse, Kenwood...everything was too small. We're not talking enormous American-size ovens here, but something big enough to hold a baking tray for a roast! Small size ovens abound for the new small size apartment living.
So, when mum saw an oven that was not only large enough, but aesthetically pleasing she went straight to it. She had never heard of Gaggenau appliances before, so the price tag of $6,000 shocked her a bit. But then the salesperson showed her everything it can do, and she was won over. Yes, it's pretty damn expensive for an oven, and reflects the market that Gaggenau appliances have over here; aimed at high end domestic and smaller commercial kitchens.
I love this oven; it is electric, as is the preference of most chefs and foodies ("cook with gas, bake with electricity") it heats itself up in less than five minutes and maintains a completely even temperature throughout. I know it can do so much more than I make it do, and I should read up on it a bit so I can learn how to drive it better.

But continuing on the Gaggenau theme...is exactly what my mum did after she was shown the captabilities of the oven. The salesperson cleverly showed her the other Gaggenau applicances and mum was taken, to say the least. She took my dad back a few weeks later for a demonstration. I think dad knew he would be up for some big money, so he wasn't a very willing participant, but when that rep starting offering crispy deep fried delights from the deep fryer option, I think dad pulled out his cheque book right away!

What they ended up buying that day was a medley of Gaggenau appliances to make a sophisticated cooktop.
From left to right we have an inbuilt steamer, perfect for steaming vegetables, fish and puddings on Christmas day. This was the most expensive appliance from the cooktop at about $2,000.
Next to that is my beloved deep fryer. This baby is da BOMB! It heats to mega temperatures in minutes, doesn't cause much smell and makes the most crispy, non-greasy deep fried delights. We don't use it everyday, but it's worth it when we do.

After the deep fryer are our burners; one large, one small and a separate wok burner, with the capability for huge amounts of heat. Perfect for woks, but also for heating up big pots of water for pasta in just a few minutes. They're all gas, and allow great control of the heat, which you just can't get with electric burners.
We also got a Gaggenau rangehood and dishwasher at the same time, which I didn't photograph because, well, one looks like a rangehood and the other just looks like the wall, as it's built into the cupboards. I could never live without a dishwasher.
I really couldn't live without these appliances, and recognise how fortunate I am to have access to them. My mum told me the other night that she said to dad at the end of the building of our house how glad she was that they bought the kitchen items early in the process, because after costs exploded later in the project, there would have been no chance she could have got such lovely appliances then!
I do admit that these fabulous appliances are a contributing factor to me continuing to live at home with my family. And although my dad is no longer with us, I'm sure he'd be so pleased that I take such enjoyment using them, and the interest in cooking I developed through his own love for food. I dread the time I move into my own place to be confronted with a rickety gas oven and ancient electric burners. I wonder if we can take our appliances with us when we move.....?

On a completely different level, this is another utensil I couldn't live without. It cost about $3 at a homewares shop, and it something my mum brought home as a gift. It's a simple measuring spoon with a divider that slides up and down to measure how much you use. It's a million times more useful than those little sets of individual measuring spoons, and it's testimony to how much I love this item that it looks so battered and stained. I think it's almost time to empty my change jar for a new one.

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Sunday, July 03, 2005

Curried Mussels

This is a quote straight from Stephanie Alexander: "Purists may frown, but curry powder is an essential ingredient in mouclade, one of the most popular mussel dishes served on the Brittany coast". Which is just me getting in early to defend my use of Keen's curry powder, usually used to flavour devilled eggs for old lady bring-a-plate functions. Keen's curry powder always makes me think of those old fashioned Aussie style 'curries' which added bananas, apples and sultanas to the pot. Bleeach.
So, I found myself buying lots of shoes at a factory outlet place close to one of Melbourne's best wholesale seafood suppliers called Poseidon. Many people don't know about this place, and that it's also open to the public. They're are a specialist supplier to restaurants, and located in a dead-end alley in a building that always looks closed. What they're most known is for their fresh oysters, which you can buy for about $8 a dozen, but their fish and other shellfish is always extremely fresh and sold straight from the ocean that morning, without huge retail markups.
But I had decided on mussels for dinner. 1 kilo of mussels for 2 people cost me all of $6. You can't really get a more affordable seafood dinner than that, can you?
I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do with them. I knew I wanted to steam them with wine, but I wanted something a bit more interesting to make a sauce. I found this recipe from Jean-Georges on The Amateur Gourmet's site, and using that combined with Stephanie's mouclade recipe as inspiration, I created something of my own. Both use curry powder with a dairy component to flavour the sauce; Stephanie with cream & Jean-George with sour-cream. Deciding not to use the fiddly egg yolk & flour emulsion of Stephanie's I decided instead to use tinned coconut milk as my 'dairy' component, to give it a bit more of an Asian flavour, and a little bit of sweetness. With some coriander over the top, it was a great combination.
The mussels were very big, and surprisingly filling but next time I won't add so much lemon juice; 1 lemon was far too much, and was nearly mouth-puckeringly sour. I've altered it in the recipe below. The curry flavour came through well, which I really enjoyed.
Although I would have loved some french fries with this, I tried to be good, and I had toasted rye bread, which worked really well. Rye bread is a traditional accompaniment to oysters, along with stout, so it wasn't so odd a combination.
A quick, easy and impressive recipe for mussels, and one I'll definitely make again the next time.
Read on for the recipe:

Curried Mussels semi-mouclade

1.5 kilos fresh mussels in the shell, cleaned and de-bearded
40g butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon curry powder
juice 1/2 lemon
freshly ground black pepper
fresh coriander

Melt butter in a large pan and cook onion until transparent. Add the wine and mussels and cover with a lid. Let steam for about 10 minutes, until mussels open. Discard any that don't open as they have died and will make you very sick.
Remove mussels to another bowl and get on with making the sauce. Add the coconut milk, curry powder and lemon juice and cook until reduced slightly. Return the mussels to the pan and spoon some sauce over them before adding cracked pepper and the coriander leaves.

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Saturday, July 02, 2005

Stan's Famous (Almond Mocha) Brownies

Well, I said I'd engage in some testing of the recipes in the Epicure search for the perfect brownie article, and this is the first.
I decided to make Stan's Famous Brownies, which use cocoa powder rather than chocolate. This is a great recipe to make when you need to whip something up without having to make a trip to the shops. It contains things you're likely to have in your cupboards, and was a good one for me, deciding as I did at 10pm that I would start a brownie baking project without chocolate in the house. This is something I often do, and I should learn! I also wanted to make them as the day this article appeared in the paper, I was sitting in The European in Spring Street after work, reading it over a red wine and some aged cheddar croquettes (cheesy poofs!), and our waitress commented that she used to work for the Stan of the recipe's title and he personally showed her how to make the brownies. She reckoned they were pretty darn fine.
I didn't have walnuts, so used the almonds I had left over from a second batch of the fantastic granola recipe I use. I also decided to add a few tablespoons of rum to the batter. Rum can only make things good, surely. :-)
I even made the chocolate coffee icing to slather over the tops which makes them look pretty damn decadent. So far I've only tried a small sliver at fridge temperature, and it was very rich, dense and chocolatey. I would look forward to tasting them at room temperature, but I'm taking these to a cake stall tomorrow morning, and somehow I don't think I'll get a chance!
So, a pretty good, nearly perfect brownie recipe. Not quite as tall and thick as I'd like, but I had halved the recipe and a smaller tin could probably solve that issue.
Read on for the recipe:

Stan's Famous Brownies
From The Age Epicure, 21/6/05
Given the number of burrito-munchers who've eaten these brownies at the many Taco Bill's restaurants in which American Stan Teschke has an interest, the "famous" claim is hard to dispute.
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup cocoa
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt
· Preheat oven to 180C.
· Melt butter in double boiler, stir in cocoa. Remove from heat, then stir in sugar.
· Break eggs into mixture one at a time, then add flour and stir to combine.
· Add walnuts, vanilla and salt and stir to combine all ingredients.
· Pour into greased and lightly floured 18cm x 28cm baking tray.
· Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
Do not overcook.
Makes: about 18 large brownies.

6 tbsp butter, melted
½ cup cocoa
1/4 cup strong coffee
2 cups icing sugar
Combine all ingredients. Ice brownies while still warm.

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