Monday, March 28, 2011

Honeyed Ricotta, Fig & Lavender Galette

honeyed ricotta, fig & lavender galette

I have a long list of favourite fruits, but I think figs are right at the tippity top. I absolutely love their curvaceous shape, their striking colour and their earthy taste that works well in both sweet and savoury dishes. Surprisingly, I don’t seem to have very many fig recipes here on my blog, but I think that’s because I tend to eat them all before I make any plans to bake with them! I dream of having a fig tree in my own backyard one day, to eat the fruit straight off the tree, just like Denea and I did in Orange last April when we went fig picking with Katie from The Farm Gate. I have never tasted a better one than that.

It was actually a rather difficult decision as to what to make with my precious figs (which cost a pretty penny!), as I really wanted their flavour to shine. The inspiration came from my friend Karen at Citrus and Candy who made lovely savoury fig galettes last year. I decided I wanted to make a sweet one. With honey. And lavender. And the leftover ricotta that I had sitting in the fridge. It all came together beautifully.

honeyed ricotta, fig & lavender galette

I really like galettes, because not only are they incredibly simple to make (“rustic” is the look you’re aiming for here), you can adapt them in any number of ways, using different fruits or even vegetables, depending on what’s in season. While taking these photos, the smell was making me froth at the mouth a little bit. The ricotta, lavender and honey were quite subtle which allowed the figs to really shine. However, it was the ginger ice cream that really made it something special.

Some of you may know that I’m a complete and total ginger addict, so making ginger ice cream seemed like a logical next step. Part of me wishes I hadn’t, because I think I’ll need to keep a container of this awesome ice cream in my freezer at all times for the rest of my life, I’m not even exaggerating. It went so beautifully with this galette, but I think it would go really well with almost any fruit pie or crumble too. Apple, pear, peach, plum, apricot, strawberry, rhubarb, even citrus desserts would be perfect with this ice cream. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

honeyed ricotta, fig & lavender galette

Ginger Ice Cream
Adapted from ‘The Perfect Scoop’ by David Lebovitz
• 1 cup milk (I used low fat)
• ¾ cup sugar
• 2 cups thickened cream (35% milk fat)
• Pinch of salt
• Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
• 6 large egg yolks
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Warm the milk, sugar, 1 cup of the cream, salt and ginger in a medium saucepan until just before boiling point. Cover, remove from the heat and let steep at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl. Un a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm milk mixture through a strainer into the eggyolks (discarding ginger pieces), whisking constantly and then scrape mixture back into the saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as your stir, until mixture thickens and coats the spatula.

Pour the custard through a strainer into the cream and stir to combine. Cool over an ice bath and then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator. When cold, freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Honeyed Ricotta, Fig and Lavender Galette
Makes 2

Sweet Shortcrust Pastry
From ‘Modern Classics 2’ by Donna Hay
• 2 cups plain flour
• 3 teaspoons caster sugar
• 150g unsalted butter, cold
• 4 tablespoons iced water

Filling
• 100g ricotta
• 2 teaspoons honey, or to taste
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 8 figs, sliced
• 2 teaspoons raw sugar
• Butter, cut into 0.5cm cubes
• ½ teaspoon dried lavender
• 2 teaspoons honey
• 1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing

To make the pastry, place flour, caster sugar and butter in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the iced water and process until the mixture starts to form a dough. Knead lightly on a floured work surface until dough just holds together. Divide into 2 discs and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, place ricotta, honey and vanilla extract in a small bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Roll each disc out into a circle, about 4mm thick. Spread half the ricotta in a thin layer in the middle, leaving a large border all around (about 5cm).

Layer half of the figs on top of the ricotta, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon raw sugar, about 5 cubes of butter, ¼ teaspoon of dried lavender and drizzle 1 teaspoon honey on top. Fold in the sides of the pastry and brush with egg. Repeat steps for the remaining pastry to make 2 galettes. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until pastry is golden and figs are tender. Serve, in slices with a scoop of ginger ice cream.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Potato and Rosemary Pizza

potato & rosemary pizza

If there was one thing I could eat almost every day and not get tired of, it would probably be pizza. A thin, crisp base topped with almost anything you can imagine, what could be better than that? It helps too, that it is so easy to make from scratch. If you’ve never cooked with yeast before, this is a great way to start. They are a far cry from the oily, sloppy and seriously unhealthy chain fast food alternatives. At home we make pizzas at least once a month, quite often more. I’ve even taught the boyfriend how to make this recipe, and he does a spectacular job!

I’ve wanted to share my favourite pizza base recipe here for so long, but somehow I never managed to snap a photo of the finished product before we dug in and demolished it. The recipe comes from John Lanzafame’s ‘Pizza Modo Mio’, which I’ve been using for nearly three years. It’s one of the easiest yeasted doughs in the world to work with and can be kneaded by hand or in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. The hardest part is waiting patiently for it to rise! Hopefully in the next couple of weeks I can put together a step-by-step video of how to make this awesome pizza dough.

As for toppings, you can put almost any combination of meat, vegetables and cheese that you fancy, but here are some of my favourites:
• Eggplant Margherita: grilled eggplant, tomato, mozzarella and basil on a homemade tomato sauce base.
• Duck Pizza: inspired by the Australian Heritage Hotel, we’ve tried recreating this at home with great success. BBQ duck (bought pre-made), bok choy and sesame seeds on a plum sauce base.

The recipe I’m sharing today is another of my all-time favourites, and is very popular with everyone who’s tried it. Thin slices of potato are par-cooked and then layered onto the base, scattered with fresh rosemary and cheese, then sprinkled liberally with salt and cracked black pepper. It’s a carbohydrate overload, and it’s seriously delicious. It also works really well with thyme if you don’t have rosemary available and is lovely with a rocket and Parmesan side salad for a delicious dinner. And like all good pizzas, the leftovers taste awesome the next day.

So tell me, what is your favourite pizza topping?

potato & rosemary pizza

Plain Pizza Dough
Recipe from ‘Pizza Modo Mio’ by John Lanzafame
Makes 1 30cm pizza (multiply recipe as desired)

• 1 teaspoon dried yeast
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 100ml warm water
• 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing
• 160g plain flour, sifted

Put the yeast, salt and warm water in a bowl and whisk until just combined. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and leave in a warm place for 10 minutes or until the mixture starts to bubble. Add the flour and knead for 10-15 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Rub the inside of a large bowl with olive oil. Roll the dough around in the bowl to coat it with olive oil, then place in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a draught-free spot for 1 – 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down to expel trapped air. At this stage the dough can be covered in plastic wrap and refrigerated overnight or frozen, bring back to room temperature before continuing. Place the dough on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover and leave in a draught-free spot for 15 minutes or until risen by half again. The dough is now ready to use.

Potato and Rosemary Pizza
Makes 1 pizza

• 1 quantity pizza dough (recipe above)
• 2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
• 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed
• Mozzarella cheese, torn
• Salt & cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220°C (430°F) and place pizza stone inside to heat.
Roll out pizza dough on a sheet of baking paper into a 30cm circle. I like to roll mine out to about 5-8mm thick. Place sliced potatoes on a plate. Cover with another inverted plate and place in the microwave for 5-6 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Sprinkle base with mozzarella cheese. Arrange potato slices evenly on pizza base. Sprinkle with rosemary and top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle with salt and cracked black pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese is melted and base is golden brown. Serve hot, cut into slices.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Greenhouse by Joost, Sydney

sydney greenhouse

Melbourne-based Dutch artist Joost Bakker is a master at taking recycling and re-purposing to a whole new level. His dream was to create a waste-free restaurant and with his pop-up restaurant in Federation Square in Melbourne, the permanent Greenhouse in Perth and now this latest instalment in Sydney’s Campbells Cove, arguably Sydney’s best real estate, it’s clear that he has succeeded.

Every component in the building is carefully considered, and chosen based on their “practicality, recyclability, life cycle and embodied energy and then for their aesthetics and cost”. The restaurant housed in a shipping container, a mural painted brightly on the side in orange. A vertical garden of strawberry plants runs up the side of the building, similar to Perth’s. The walls are painted with Bio-Char to actually absorb carbon.

The glasses are made from old wine bottles or jars, most dishes are served simply on planks of timber, and even the cutlery is made from plantation timber and are composted after use. I was really looking forward to checking it out since I had absolutely loved the Perth Greenhouse back in January. I think what I most enjoyed about my recent visit to the Sydney one was actually contrasting the two experiences.

sydney greenhouse

We start with a Pipsqueak cider (small $6, large $10). I am absolutely loving ciders this summer! The Pipsqueak is one of my favourites, and well-deserved on a particularly stressful Monday. The menu is based around tapas style share plates, with lots of beautiful and interesting vegetable dishes on offer. We start with the sweetcorn on the cob with cumin and coriander ($10). The corn was bursting with flavour, super fresh and utterly delicious.

greenhouse sydney

We were both intrigued with the wood roasted carrots and beetroots with labne and pistachio ($16) but they were also stunning. Heirloom carrots are absolutely delicious and very good for you. They were stunning, and it’s a great dish that can be easily recreated at home.

sydney greenhouse

My cousin Jess decided on the seared mullet with mixed tomato salad ($26) which looked stunning on the plate (er, board) when it came out. The tomatoes were some of the freshest I’ve ever had, sweet, juicy and absolutely gorgeous. The mullet was also delicious with delicious crispy skin.

sydney greenhouse

After a bit of a wait for my pizza, we checked with the staff to find they hadn’t put the order through at all. By the time it came out, the restaurant was dark with only candles for illumination, so please excuse the shocking photo! The good news is that the pork sausage, tomato and artichoke pizza ($15) was delicious. The flour is ground on-site for the pizzas, pastries and bread. The base just tasted wholesome, and with a simple yet stunning combination of flavours atop it, it was a lovely meal.

I’ve said it before, I really love the concept of Greenhouse and the way that the guys use only the freshest seasonal produce, prepared in a simple, unpretentious way, which is how we all should approach cooking. With rumours that the Greenhouse will return to Sydney in a permanent way later this year, this was a fantastic way to introduce the idea to a willing Sydney audience.

I felt that the Perth Greenhouse had a better ambience, much better service than the pop-up restaurant, and being a permanent structure, I think the idea of a sustainable restaurant and functioning rooftop garden works better as a whole. The Greenhouse is open in Campbells Cove in The Rocks for one more week, until the 31st March, so get in quick if you haven’t checked it out yet!

Greenhouse Sydney - Campbell's Cove, Sydney (near the Overseas Passenger Terminal)

Greenhouse By Joost on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GourmetRabbit Issue 2

GourmetRabbit issue 2

At the Food Bloggers Christmas picnic in 2009, I offered a bright and friendly red-haired girl a fruit mince pie. I didn’t know it at the time, but that girl would quickly become my business partner and one of my best friends. She had grand ambitions, and somehow I landed in her life just in time to help turn them into reality. We launched GourmetRabbit Issue 1 in March 2010. It was an amazingly successful year, with the concept of industry-written content and the unique, quirky design setting it apart.

GourmetRabbit issue 2

Issue 2 “The Best Knows No Borders” is now proudly sitting on my bookshelf, 50 pages bigger than the first, with almost 140 pages of amazing recipes and articles. I designed the book cover to cover, which is what has kept me very (very very) busy over the last few months! But there’s no better feeling than finally seeing the book printed, and flicking through the pages one at a time. I’m thrilled by how it turned out, I think it’s even more beautiful than the first one.

GourmetRabbit issue 2

It is absolutely packed with awesome content. There’s articles about spending a night in a restaurant kitchen by Alvin Quah from Masterchef, all about American food (it’s so much more than burgers and fries!) by Dan McGuirt from Jazz City Diner, what chefs really think of food bloggers by Josh Nicholls from Café Ish, DIY spirits by the very talented Sam Bygrave, how food and sport are connected by four of the South Sydney Rabbitohs finest players…

GourmetRabbit issue 2

There’s in-depth guides to show you what to look for in both beer and saké, a chef’s guide to Turkish food and culture by Somer from Efendy in Balmain, what ‘best before’ dates really mean, Adriano Zumbo’s recipe for Regal Salmon and Raspberry macarons, a food guide written by and for Sydney locals and much, much more.

GourmetRabbit issue 2

The website has also had a makeover, now GourmetRabbit.com is a free food industry noticeboard where you can catch up on all the industry goss, like which restaurant has a new chef, a new menu, a special event and much more. Subscribe to the "Bunny Bulletin" and it will be delivered to your inbox! And of course there will also be awesome monthly industry-written feature content.

GourmetRabbit issue 2 launch

GourmetRabbit Issue 2 officially launched last Tuesday night at Harts Pub in the Rocks, where articles in the book came alive with tastings and demonstrations by PR Raineri Deli, canapés by Regal King Salmon, cocktails by Sam Bygrave, an Asian grocery by Ettason and craft beer tastings by Harts. It was a delicious night with plenty to munch on and it was so nice to see that everyone is as excited as we are.

It is now available in over 1600 newsagents and book stores around Australia, so keep your eyes peeled and grab your copy! But for my awesome readers, I have two copies to give away! All you have to do is tell me who or what you would like to see in Issue 3.

It could be a particular recipe or your favourite chef, an interview or a travel story, anything! The winner will be decided on Monday 28th March and contacted via email (so make sure you fill in your email address on the comment form so I can get in touch with you!) Postage is to Australia only. Good luck!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blueberry and Ginger Cheesecake

blueberry & ginger cheesecake

Hi everyone! I just got back from a lovely week in Tasmania, spent semi-relaxing (the three hour hike up to beautiful Wineglass Bay was far from relaxing, but well worth the exhaustion and ended up being the highlight of the trip), eating at some beautiful places and road tripping around the state, enjoying the rugged scenery with the boy and our hire car, a little red Barina that we called Florence. But more on that shortly, I have lots of photos to resize!

This summer felt like it went past in the blink of an eye, starting off with mild temperatures and wet weather, culminating in a couple of weeks of 35°C+ days (and nights!) It’s always a little bittersweet at this time of year. While I love autumn more than any other season, I find it hard to say goodbye to summer fruits and long warm days. I was also ridiculously busy for most of the summer, so I didn’t get a lot of time to enjoy these things, let alone cook with all my favourite fruits. Therefore, the next few weeks will be all about catching up before the stone fruit season is over!

Blueberries are another of my favourite summer fruits, and I was captivated by this recipe that I saw in Donna Hay’s recent Christmas issue. You must all know how I feel about ginger by now, and the combination sounded perfect. While I followed the recipe pretty closely, I spruced it up a little by adding a vanilla bean to the cheesecake filling and omitting the cream.

It turned out beautifully, an interesting take on a normal cheesecake, serving it in "sandwich" form between slabs of headily spiced gingerbread (although next time I would roll it out slightly thinner). This results in a dainty little sweet that would be equally perfect for afternoon tea or dessert. Blueberries and cheesecake are best friends and make for a stunning summer dessert. Give this recipe a try before summer is over!

Blueberry and Ginger Cheesecake
Adapted from Donna Hay magazine
Serves 8-10

• 125g butter, softened
• ½ cup brown sugar
• ½ cup golden syrup
• 2 ½ cups plain flour, sifted
• 2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
• 500g cream cheese
• 1/3 lemon juice
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• ½ cup icing sugar, sifted, plus extra to serve

Blueberry Swirl
• 275g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
• 3 tablespoons caster sugar
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the blueberry swirl mixture, place the blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and vanilla in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until thickened. Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 190° (375°F). Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until pale and creamy. Add the golden syrup, flour, ginger and baking soda and mix to form a smooth dough. Flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until the dough is firm.

Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm thick. Cut into two 20x30 rectangles. Place on baking trays and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely.

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Add lemon juice, vanilla seeds and icing sugar and beat for a further 2 minutes or until well combined and smooth. Place 1 rectangle in the base of a 20x30cm slice tin lined with non-stick baking paper. Spoon the cheesecake mixture over the base, top with blueberry mixture and lightly swirl with a spoon to marble. Top with the remaining gingerbread rectangle and refrigerate for 3-4 hours or until the filling is set. Remove from the tin and slice with a serrated knife. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

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