Monday, August 30, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet

choc chip cookie skillet

I think I work in the best part of Sydney – The Rocks. Even after two years, I still feel incredibly lucky to step off the train every morning after an hour’s trip from southwest Sydney into the most beautiful part of the city. I am fascinated by the history and the well-preserved architecture, the twisty-turny laneways and the stories that would be told, if the sandstone could talk. Even though I’ve walked past it easily over a hundred times, it wasn’t until recently that I visited Hart’s Pub, sitting at the top of the hill on the corner of Essex and Gloucester Streets.

And boy oh boy, have I been missing out! Owned by the same folk behind Rocks Brewing Company, the pub is exactly the right mix of friendly heritage vibe and incredibly good food and booze, specialising in Australian craft beers. I especially like the idea of a “tasting paddle”, where you can try four different beers. Perfect if you can’t decide what you fancy! My favourites were the Rocks Brewing Co 1809 Pale Ale, and an absolutely knockout, yet deceptively alcoholic cider.

But what I really want to talk about today is chocolate chip cookie skillets. This incredible dessert was served to us with a scoop of ice cream and a Rocks Brewing Co Cribbs Porter. Now, I’m only just getting my head around food and wine matching, but food and beer matching is a whole different story altogether, especially when dessert is involved. And wow, this was the kind of dessert I couldn’t stop thinking about for weeks. When the cookie dough was cooked in a cast-iron skillet, the edges became crisp like a brownie, while the inside remained almost cake like. Of course, served warm, the chocolate chips were melty and delicious, and I think this is one of the best sharing desserts you could possibly ever have.

cookie dough!
Sexy cookie dough

I decided to have a go at replicating it at home, using my favourite cookie recipe, which I’ve blogged before from the New York Times. The recipe itself is a surefire winner, containing literally half a kilogram of chocolate chips. However I’ve halved it in the recipe below, because I had enough dough for a skillet and 20-odd cookies, however no one complained. Except Denea, because she missed out. I would also slightly under-fill the skillet next time, because I ended up with a bit of overflow when the cookie rose. I didn’t leave the dough for 36 hours as the original recipe said to. Mine was in the fridge overnight, about 12 hours and it was just fine. If you’re in Sydney, Hart’s Pub should go on your list of awesome eats. Just make sure you save room for dessert.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Skillet
Inspired by Harts Pub. Adapted from the New York Times
Serves 2

• 240g plain flour
• 2/3 teaspoon baking soda
• ¾ teaspoon baking powder
• ¾ teaspoon coarse salt
• 140g unsalted butter, softened
• 2/3 cup brown sugar
• 112g granulated sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
• 250g bittersweet chocolate chips
• Sea salt, to sprinkle

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk well, then set aside. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low, then add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. This can be messy, so hold a clean dish towel over the top of the bowl. Add the chocolate chips and mix briefly to incorporate.
Press plastic wrap against the dough and refrigerate overnight.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F). Remove the bowl of cookie dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften slightly. Grease a 20cm (8-inch) cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Press the dough into the skillet with your fingers until about 1cm from the top. Any leftovers can be baked as cookies.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown but still slightly soft. Transfer skillet to a wire rack for 10-15 minutes, and serve, being careful that the handle will still be hot.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Pulled Pork Tacos

tacos (173/365)

Two words, put together that are guaranteed to make me weak at the knees everytime. They’re not “chocolate fondant” or “lemon meringue”, or even “ginger beer”. The words I’m talking about are “pulled pork”. Oh yes, what in the world could possibly be better than a pork shoulder, roasted slowly for hours until its falling apart under your fork. And then, add carbs. Whether you put the meat directly onto a sandwich, or with black beans and rice in a burrito, or as I’ve done here, with a tomato and avocado salsa in a delicious taco. Pulled pork is always a hands down winner, and one of my favourite things to cook.

I first made this recipe when I was in Perth, when we were entertaining my boyfriend’s sister and her man. I knew it would go down a treat, and score me some brownie points, plus I had to somehow top the awesome pizzas I’d made them the visit before! The meat was juicy and oh so tender, I couldn’t help but nibble away (and moan in delight) as I was shredding the pork. It was absolutely perfect washed down with a Broome-brewed Matso Ginger Beer on a warm day. Speaking of the Ginger Beer, it was absolutely delicious, refreshing and almost embarrassingly easy to drink. Make sure you check it out if you’re ever in Western Australia, as it doesn’t seem to be stocked outside of the state.

pulled pork tacos

When I tried slow roasting the pork at home in my own oven, it didn’t quite turn out the same. I think it was because we could only get a boneless pork shoulder, after visiting several butchers, so over the long cooking time the meat ended up a little drier but delicious nonetheless. It’s important to be aware of the weight of your pork, and adjust your cooking time accordingly. It’s also a good idea to keep checking on the piggy regularly throughout the cooking time, turning the pan to ensure it cooks evenly.

You know it’s ready when you can shred it with forks and the meat falls off the bone. And then it’s time to invite me over for dinner! The original recipe gave instructions for how to make your own wheat flour tortillas, which I didn’t do this time but would love to try out in the future. I’ve included it in the recipe below in case you’re so inclined. I seriously can’t wait to shake off the last of winter’s cold and start cooking and eating outside again. I know this recipe is firmly logded into my summer cooking repertoire and will make an appearance at my dinner table again very soon.

pulled pork tacos

Pulled Pork Tacos with Tomato and Avocado Salsa
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 6

• 1.8kg pork shoulder, bone in
• 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 2 teaspoons ground cumin

Wheat Flour Tortillas
• 450g plain or bread flour
• 120g lard

Tomato and Avocado Salsa
• 2 avocados
• 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, finely chopped
• ½ teaspoon chipotle chilli, or chilli powder
• ½ cup loosely packed coriander leaves
• 40ml lime juice

Place pork shoulder in a large baking dish. Drizzle with oil and rub in the cumin. Season to taste with salt and cracked black pepper, rubbing to coat evenly. Roast at 200°C (390°F) for 1 hour, then reduce heat to 150°C (300°F) and cook for 2 ½ hours. It’s ready when the meat comes cleanly away from the bone.

For wheat flour tortillas, place flour in a large bowl and using fingertips, rub in the lard until combined. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, combine 1 teaspoon sea salt with 1 cup water. Add to flour and mix until combined. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes. Heat a flat, heavy based fry pan over low heat. Roll a tablespoon of dough into a 15cm thick circl. Place into the frypan and cook fro 1-2 minutes on each side or until just coloured. Repeat with remaining dough, covering cooked tortillas with a towel to keep warm.

For salsa, peel avocadoes, halve and remove stones and then cut flesh into 1cm pieces. Combine with tomatoes, chilli, coriander and lime juice and season to taste.

To serve, coarsely shred meat using two forks. Place some on each tortilla, top with salsa and serve immediately with a beer.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

ATFT Photography Workshop

atft photography workshop

Photography is a huge part of food blogging, and no one does it better than Billy Law from A Table for Two. Lucky for the rest of us, Billy has been putting on a series of food photography workshops at Mumu Grill in Crows Nest, to share some tips and tricks. I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn from someone who I admire. It was a sunny Saturday morning, and a group of 15 eager students including Steph, Suze and Jacq, assembled in Mumu’s private dining room.

atft photography workshop

The first part of the workshop was based on theory, explaining the basics, aperture, shutter speed, how to properly adjust white balance and shoot in low lighting, as well as some hints on composition (square plates are evil!). Billy was great at answering questions and giving advice, as well as showing us the subtle differences between a good-enough photo and a great photo.

Lunch was a delicious spread of tapas and share plates, including olives, a lovely cherry tomato and fetta salad that I just couldn’t leave alone, chorizo smothered cheese, Szechwan pepper prawns and of course jamon.

atft photography workshop

The beef tagliatta was perfectly cooked, and absolutely lovely with the duck fat potatoes (must try making these at home). There was delicious jamon, of course, as this is Mumu afterall, and roast chicken served with sweet potato and wilted spinach (although this one was tricky to share!)

After lunch, we tackled post-production and editing, something that is very interesting and not many people know, since all digital photos usually need to be retouched in some way. Billy showed us how to use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to turn a decent shot into a spectacular one, including colour balancing and noise reduction.

atft photography workshop

Then it was time for dessert, a platter that included Mumu’s famous and delicious brown sugar pavlova with pineapple and passionfruit, which inspired my recent post. There was also a chocolate and hazelnut tart, a gingerbread cake sandwich with seasonal fruit and a macadamia ice cream.

The 3-hour workshop is great for people who are beginners with their DSLR’s or for people who have some idea and just want a bit more instruction. It inspired me to not be lazy and to try and get the shot right in the camera and cut down my editing to a minimum. Thanks Billy for sharing your time and knowledge with us. And thanks to Mumu for a yummy lunch!

Mumu Grill, 70-76 Alexander St, Crows Nest

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Brown Sugar Pavlova

brown sugar pavlova

Pavlova is a classic Australian dessert consisting of a baked meringue base, usually topped with lashings of whipped cream, berries, kiwi fruit and other summer fruit. It’s made appearances at summer BBQ’s, picnics and Christmas parties all over Australia. It’s also a great way to use up leftover egg whites, a little problem that is constantly overrunning my freezer.

But how about a winter version? This pav uses brown sugar for a slightly caramelly taste, which is perfect topped with your favourite winter fruit. It was inspired by the dessert from Mumu Grill in Crows Nest, which I tried for the first time at the Slow Food dinner last year, and again last weekend at Billy’s photography workshop (stay tuned!)

mr riggs sticky

I adapted a recipe from Gourmet Traveller, which was topped with bananas and rum syrup, however I decided to use stewed rhubarb on mine. It’s an absolutely lovely dessert, especially with my favourite dessert wine, Mr Riggs Sticky End Viognier from McLaren Vale, which I had to go all the way to Adelaide to find! The pavlova itself comes together easily, with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.

It would make a lovely addition to your next dinner party, and you can top it with any fruit you like – perhaps pineapple and passionfruit like Mumu’s version, or stewed caramel apples and pears. The choice is yours!

Brown Sugar Pavlova
Serves 4
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

• 4 egg whites
• 150g caster sugar
• 120g brown sugar
• 10g cornflour
• 1 teaspoon white vinegar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 400ml thickened cream
• 200g rhubarb, cut into 4cm lengths
• 3-4 teaspoons sugar

Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Whisk eggwhites with a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then with motor running, gradually add caster sugar. Whisk until stiff peaks form and mixture is thick and glossy. Add 70g brown sugar, whisk until sugar is incorporated and mixture is glossy. Fold in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract.

Spoon meringue into an 18cm diameter mound, or four smaller mounds on a baking paper lined oven tray and bake for 2 hours. Turn off oven and cool completely.

Meanwhile, place rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons water. Set over low heat and cover, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes until rhubarb is tender but still holds its shape. Allow to cool. To serve, whisk cream and remaining brown sugar together in a bowl until soft peaks form. Spoon on top of pavlova. Top with stewed rhubarb.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lemon Delicious with French Earl Grey Ice Cream

lemon delicious & earl greyicecream

The idea for this recipe has been in the works for a while now. It started at CafĂ© Ish, when a bunch of bloggers went for All You Can Eat Ribs on a Wednesday night. The ribs were amazing but the highlight of the night for me was the Lemon Delicious that was served for dessert, with the intriguing hit of lemon myrtle and served with a wattle seed ice cream. Then one afternoon when the girls and I were wandering around Cabramatta, eating a lot and buying cheap crockery, I found a small garden store and sitting outside was a beautiful Meyer lemon tree, which I then bought, and named ‘Sparky’.

lemon delicious & earl greyicecream

A few weeks after that, Karen and I were killing time before an event and we ended up in the T2 shop in the QVB. I was looking for giant teacups but they had sold out, and so I got to browsing tea instead. As soon as I had one whiff of the ambrosial French Earl Grey, I knew I had to buy it, and what’s more, I knew I had to make ice cream with it. To go with a Meyer lemon delicious pudding. And so here we are, finally. And I couldn’t be happier with the combination of flavours!

It’s hard to describe the intense, ambrosial aroma of the tea. It’s a delightful twist on a traditional Earl Grey, but with rose, sunflowers and hibiscus with hints of fruits like apricots, peaches and of course citrus joining the party. It’s like a garden party on a sunny spring day. The taste of the ice cream itself is much more subtle because the cream rounds out the flavours. I adapted my favourite vanilla ice cream recipe, and steeped the tea leaves in the warm cream for about 30 minutes before straining and continuing on with the recipe. I can imagine this ice cream being delicious with other desserts too. Maybe a rich chocolate cake, or anything to do with summer stonefruit. Of course if you can’t find French Earl Grey, this would also be delicious with regular Earl Grey tea as well.

lemon delicious & earl greyicecream

I’ve made Lemon Delicious puddings before but I wasn’t quite happy with the texture last time, and there was way too much butter. This time I used recipe from taste.com.au which worked out beautifully, with a light-as-air sponge layer on top giving way to a custardy pudding below. It was a real thrill to use lemons from my own tree. The original recipe called for Splenda, oddly enough, but I used sugar, cutting down the amount by ¼ cup because Meyer lemons are slightly sweeter than regular ones. It would also be interesting to try using other citrus in this dessert, or even a combination of lemon and orange zest and juice.

Also, don't forget to enter my competition to WIN a Collector's First issue of the magazine I designed, GourmetRabbit plus a year's online subscription to gourmetrabbit.com!! Entries close soon, just comment and tell me what is the weirdest thing you've ever eaten!

lemon delicious & earl greyicecream

French Earl Grey Ice Cream
Makes 1 litre
Adapted from ‘The Perfect Scoop’ by David Lebovitz

• 1 cup milk
• ¾ cups sugar
• 2 cups heavy cream
• Pinch salt
• 2 tablespoons T2 French earl grey tea leaves
• 6 large egg yolks
• ¾ teaspoons vanilla extract

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of cream and salt in a medium saucepan. Add the tea leaves to the warm milk. When just boiling, remove from the heat, cover and allow to steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Pour the warm cream mixture through a strainer into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the mixture back into the saucapan.

Stir constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula/spoon. Strain the custard into the cream. Add the vanilla extract and whisk until cool over an ice bath. Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Lemon Delicious Puddings
Serves 6
Adapted from taste.com.au

• 150g butter, melted
• 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon rind (I used Meyer lemons)
• ½ cup lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
• 1 cup sugar
• ¾ cup self raising flour
• 1 cup milk
• 4 eggs, separated

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Grease six 1 cup capacity oven proof dishes. Place butter, lemon rind, lemon juice, sugar, flour, milk and egg yolks in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.

In a separate small bowl, beat eggwhites using an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold a quarter of the eggwhite in to the lemon mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining eggwhite.

Spoon mixture into prepared dishes. Place dishes in a large baking tray and pour boiling water carefully into the baking dish until halfway up the sides of the smaller dish. (I open the oven, put the baking tray onto the oven rack and then pour the boiling water in to avoid having to carry a heavy tray filled with hot water). Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden and just set. Serve warm with French Earl Grey ice cream.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

South, Neutral Bay

south, neutral bay

The list of restaurants I want to visit is massive, and that’s just in Sydney alone. This harbour city has a great food scene and I feel lucky to be able to try almost any kind of cuisine I can imagine. I recently found the newspaper clipping that I’d ripped out sometime last year, the first I’d heard about South, a tiny restaurant in Neutral Bay that was meant to have some of the best traditional Southern American food in Sydney. I get weak at the knees at the mention of ribs and pulled pork so I knew I had to give this place a visit. It seemed like the perfect place for dinner with the boy, who was visiting from Perth and American-born Miss GourmetRabbit, Denea.

I’ve got to admit, I was a little nervous about taking an American to a American restaurant, but I needn’t have worried in the slightest. After a few car dramas, and crazy Friday night traffic over the bridge to actually make it there on time, the rest of the evening was fabulous. The restaurant itself is teeny tiny, and we were lucky to even get a booking! Everything on the menu looks delicious, from the BBQ Ribs to dishes like Crawfish EtouffĂ© that I had heard of but never tried.

south, neutral bay

The decision was a tough one, but we had to have the Wing Tips ($16), a half and half serving of Ribs and Hot Wings, served with blue cheese sauce. The ribs were juicy and delicious, saucy and sticky just as they should be, and I think we all slightly regretted not ordering a full rack! The wings were a little bit spicy but majorly delicious, a great start to the meal, and perfect washed down with a St Hellier pear cider.

south, neutral bay

Steve had the Buffalo chicken sandwich ($16), which was grilled chicken breast with the Hot Wing sauce and blue cheese dressing, served with shoestring fries and a pickle. He wasn’t a huge fan of the dressing, but I loved the tangy taste of the blue cheese with the spicy chicken marinade.

south, neutral bay

There was no question that we would get the Pulled Pork sandwich ($16), slow cooked for hours and served on a roll with coleslaw, and shoestring fries and a pickle. The pork was delicious and tender, absolutely falling apart. Smothered in BBQ sauce and loaded with coleslaw, I could have eaten the whole sandwich all by myself!

south, neutral bay

To share, we ordered the Smothered Chicken ($26), which was a chicken breast topped with bacon, onion and melted cheese, served with blackened corn, greens and BBQ sauce. This was probably our least favourite of the night, not because it wasn’t tasty, but because everything else was so darn good! Denea thought a different type of cheese would help bring it to a whole new level of yum. We also ordered a side of Corn Bread ($6) which I’d never tried before. It was delicious, buttery, and yet we smothered it with more butter. I think I’m going to have to try making it at home!

south, neutral bay

By this point, we were almost bursting but we couldn’t leave without trying desserts, which we had been looking at all night, displayed in the cabinet right behind our table. The lemon meringue looked delicious, but we decided on the Pecan Pie ($12) and I’m so glad we did. It came out covered in a delicious chocolate sauce, served with whipped cream and ice cream. What can I possibly say, it was one of the best desserts I’d had in a while. Perfect pastry, a hint of bourbon and crunchy pecans, the perfect ending to a fabulous meal.

I would definitely come back again and again for delicious, hearty American soul food. The staff were fantastic, helpful and friendly, and there was a lot of love in the room, and the whole place had a fantastic atmosphere. The red and white checked tablecloths and the Tabasco Oystes mural appealed to me so very much. I would also be very interested to try the owner’s other restaurant, located just a few blocks away called Blue Plate Grill, which is the same style of food in a larger, fully licensed premises, (whereas South is tiny, and BYO.) Definitely a good reason to cross the bridge, but make sure you book in advance, and y’know possibly skip lunch.

South - 222 Military Rd, Neutral Bay

South Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Sticky Chocolate Doughnuts

doughnuts

Life has been extraordinarily busy recently, so please forgive me for a short post. I’ve been running the design department at work for the last few weeks, which is kind of cool, but pretty full on. And there’s nothing that helps me chill out and relax more than getting into the kitchen and cooking something delicious. I’d been eyeing off this recipe from Gourmet Traveller since the issue came out in June from their awesome feature all about donuts.

I’ve made a few kinds of doughnuts lately, with lots more that I want to try over the next few months as well. There’s just something about them that is the right blend of delicious and fun. A throwback to a childhood favourite, now with grown up flavours. I used cocoa nibs to sprinkle on top rather than making a hazelnut praline. Use a chocolate that you like for the glaze, because it really makes all the difference. The dough is wonderfully easy to work with, although next time I would halve the recipe, since they are best eaten on the day they are made, and there were just too many for the four of us!

doughnuts

I found the glaze coated the doughnuts much more easily when it was almost completely cool. I took these photos after dipping the first few into a warm glaze. By the time the glaze cooled down, it was too dark to take any more photos, but they were much prettier, with a thick, rich glaze. I would recommend making it in advance so it’s ready to go when you start to fry the doughnuts. They are seriously all kinds of good. There’s no elegant way to eat these, so licking the rich and sticky chocolate glaze off your fingers is absolutely mandatory.

doughnuts

Sticky Chocolate Doughnuts
Makes 12 doughnuts + holes
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller

Doughnuts
• 390ml lukewarm milk
• 125g caster sugar
• 75g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
• 14g dried yeast
• 2 eggs, at room temperature
• 700g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• Vegetable oil, for deep frying
• Cocoa nibs, for garnish

Glaze
• 220g caster sugar
• 200g dark chocolate, finely chopped

Combine milk, sugar, butter, yeast, eggs, half the flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with a dough hook. Beat on medium speed for 4-5 minutes until smooth and combined. Add remaining flour, a little at a time, beating for an additional 4-5 minutes, until dough no longer sticks to the bowl and is smooth and elastic. Transfer to a lightly buttered bowl, cover with plastic wrap and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (1-1 ½ hours)

Knock back dough, then roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1cm thick. Cut out 9cm diameter rounds with a floured cutter, then cut a hole in the center of each with a 3cm cutter. Transfer doughnuts and holes to a tray covered with baking paper, allowing space in between each to rise, cover with a tea towel and stand until doubled in size (45 minutes – 1 hour)

Meanwhile, combine sugar and 60ml water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium high-heat until sugar dissolves, then cook until light caramel (8-10 minutes). Remove from heat, add chocolate and stir to combine. Add 50ml water and stir to combine (be careful, mixture may sieze), return to heat and stir until smooth. Add another 50ml water, stir to combine and strain through a metal sieve into a heatproof bowl. Allow to cool.

Preheat oil in a deep fryer or deep sided saucepan to 180°C (350°F). Deep fry doughnuts and holes, in batches, turning occasionally until golden and cooked through (5-6 minutes for doughnuts, 3-4 minutes for holes, be careful as hot oil may spit), drain on a wire rack placed over a tray. When cool enough to handle, carefully half dip doughnuts and holes in chocolate glaze. Shake off excess and place on a rack. Scatter with cocoa nibs and stand for 20-30 minutes until set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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