Wednesday, September 28, 2011
This post is sponsored by Nuffnang
Ahhh, it must be spring. The weather is warming up, the days are getting longer, and my hayfever is back with a vengeance! But it also means that BBQ season is just beginning, and that is something I get excited about every year. Cooking and eating outside during the warmer months is really special, and I just love the relaxed vibe that comes with a Sydney spring.
Although I usually focus on sweet recipes on my blog, one of my favourite things to cook is slow roasted meat. Whether it’s a shredded pork shoulder to fill some delicious tacos or veal shanks slow cooked in a rich tomato sauce to top homemade pasta, there’s something inherently magical about this style of cooking. Ribs are one thing I’ll never get enough of, and are at their best when slow cooked in a delicious saucy marinade.
This time I used beef ribs, which I had never cooked before (but have enjoyed eating on many occasions!) but pork ribs would also work beautifully in this recipe if you prefer. I always start by preparing a spice rub, which gives them an extra boost of flavour, and then grilling them on the BBQ. This does two things – jump starts the cooking process, and gives the meat a lovely, slightly charry flavour.
I recently picked up a bottle of pomegranate molasses and decided to add some into the marinade for fun, and it was absolutely delicious, creating a sweetness and a hint of smokiness in the sauce. I also loved the Cambpell’s stock paste sachets for a convenient way to get the flavour of beef stock into the sauce, without having to add a lot of liquid. From there, the ribs are slow cooked in that magical sauce until the meat is tender and falling off the bones.
I find writing savoury recipes a little difficult, as I usually just throw the ingredients in, tasting as I go along and rarely measuring, so feel free to adapt the sauce to include whatever you like – perhaps some maple syrup or some bourbon would be nice. The sauce is also delicious on other things too, so if you have any left over, store it in an airtight container and serve it on burgers or pies.
The ribs were totally delicious, and the sauce was the star. I served mine simply with steak fries (you can’t have ribs without chips!) washed down with a nice cold glass of apple cider. Not a bad way to spend a nice warm spring Sunday if I do say so myself!
Beef Ribs with Pomegranate BBQ Sauce
• 3.5kg beef ribs (or pork if you prefer)
• Olive oil
• Steak fries, to serve
• 1 teaspoon ground fennel
• 1 teaspoon ground cumin
• 2 teaspoons smoky paprika
• 1 teaspoon ground chilli
• ½ teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• ¾ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 200ml tomato sauce
• 2 sachets Campbell’s beef stock paste
• 2 tablespoons Worstershire sauce
• 4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 2 teaspoons paprika
• 1 ½ teaspoon cumin
• 1 teaspoon garlic powder
• 1 teaspoon sumac
• Chilli flakes, to taste
• Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine ingredients for the spice rub in a bowl and mix to combine. Rub all over the ribs and place in a non-reactive container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably 2-3 hours.
In the meantime, combine ingredients for BBQ sauce in another bowl or jug, tasting as you go along and adjusting to taste.
Heat a BBQ or char-grill plate over high heat. Drizzle olive oil onto ribs and toss to coat. Place ribs fat side up and cook for 5-8 minutes each side or until sealed and slightly charred.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Transfer ribs to a large oven-proof dish and brush generously with BBQ sauce. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 2 - 2 ½ hours, turning 3-4 times throughout, until meat is tender and falling off the bone. You can remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of cooking to crisp up the outsides slightly. Serve with chips and extra BBQ sauce.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
There are a lot of things I miss about working in The Rocks, but one in particular is being so close to La Renaissance Patisserie! While my willpower was tested on a daily basis, I thought I did pretty well to only succumb to the 3pm sweet craving occasionally. I love their amazing macarons – in my opinion some of the best in Sydney. My favourite has always been the Chocolate and Passionfruit, which I thought was a strange combination at first, but one that I have completely fallen in love with.
For a while I’ve been thinking about how I can combine these flavours into a dessert. I decided to try making a swirled Cheesecake Brownie with a hit of passionfruit, and I couldn’t be happier with how the idea panned out! The flavours work so well together – the tangy passionfruit is a perfect foil for the rich chocolate. I think it’s a perfect flavour combination for spring.
I adapted David Lebovitz’s recipe, which was totally delicious, as I knew it would be, but also ridiculously simple to prepare. I loved the fudgy brownie with the creamy, tangy cheesecake mixture. One thing I love about brownies is that they are perfect as they are, and portable enough for your picnic basket. But if you wanted to dress them up, all they need is a generous scoop of ice cream to turn them into an impressive dessert (and some Persian fairy floss if you want to be really fancy). I decided to top mine simply with some extra passionfruit pulp.
Passionfruit Cheesecake Brownies
Adapted from David Lebovitz
• 85g salted butter
• 200g dark chocolate, chopped
• 130g sugar
• 2 large eggs, at room temperature
• 70g flour
• 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
• Pinch salt
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 200g cream cheese
• 75g caster sugar
• ¼ cup passionfruit, juice only, seeds discarded
• Passionfruit pulp, to serve, optional
Line a rectangular brownie pan with non-stick baking paper. Preheat oven to 170°C (340°F).
Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, and stir until smooth. Remove from the heat and beat in the sugar and then the eggs. Mix in the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then the vanilla extract. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
In a separate bowl, beat together the cream cheese, caster sugar, passionfruit juice and vanilla until smooth. Distribute the cream cheese mixture in eight dollops across the top of the brownie mixture, then take a knife or skewer and swirl the ream cheese mixture with the chocolate batter.
Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the batter in the center of the pan feels just set. Let cool, then lift out the baking paper and peel it away. Cut the brownies into squares. Top with additional passionfruit pulp to serve, if desired.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Oh man, I love pandan! I have my food blogging friends to thank for that, after showing me the light with a delicious pandan waffle when we went for lunch in Cabramatta about a year ago. Since then, I’ll always order pandan flavoured desserts when I can, and one of my favourites in recent times was the Pandan Chiffon Cake at Ms G’s. While I did really like the dessert, I thought it needed some kind of crunch added to make it even better and that’s where the idea for this dessert came from.
I was also lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Dinner Explorer by Electrolux, which appealed immensely to my hostess tendencies. The website gives you everything you need including menus, drinks, and decorating ideas to cater for any number of occasions from Melbourne Cup to Footy Finals, to obscure holidays like Marie Antionette’s Birthday (November 2nd) or Polish Dumpling Day (September 28th)!
On the night, Peter Gilmore demonstrated how to make a decadent Christmas brunch – a caramelised brioche with cherry compote (as well as a majorly awesome White Peach Bellini that will definitely be on repeat come summer). It was remarkably simple but absolutely delicious, and I was inspired to create a spin on Ms G’s dessert. I made a pandan chiffon cake and soaked squares of it in a typical egg-milk mixture as you would French Toast.
While Peter had access to a steam oven, I used the microwave to gently pre-cook the cake, and then made a dry caramel in a fry pan with some butter added at the end for some extra richness, and carefully cooked the cake in the caramel mixture until it was golden. I served it with a very simple coconut sorbet (made without an ice cream maker) and some lovely fresh strawberries, playing off the awesome flavours in Ms G's version. It was a huge hit!
I really enjoyed both making and eating this dessert, with some of my favourite flavours. While it is quite involved, you’re free to buy store bought pandan cake and sorbet to make things quicker. I really loved the light, fluffy pandan cake, and I think it would be perfect on its own or with a light coconut glaze. Many thanks to Electrolux for inviting me along to the event, and for the inspiration and ideas!
Caramelised Pandan Cake with Coconut Sorbet
Coconut Sorbet (adapted from Epicurious)
• 1 x 400g can coconut cream
• ¼ cup ice cold water
• 1 tablespoon rum
Pandan Chiffon Cake (adapted from Iron Chef Shellie)
• 10 egg whites, at room temperature
• 2/3 cup caster sugar, for egg whites
• 10 egg yolks
• 145g caster sugar, for egg yolks
• 210ml coconut milk
• 90ml vegetable oil
• 1 ½ teaspoons pandan paste
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 300g plain flour, sifted
• 3 ½ tablespoons, sifted
• Pinch salt
• 1 egg
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 200g caster sugar
• 100g salted butter
• Strawberries, hulled to serve
For the coconut sorbet, whisk ingredients in a medium bowl and then transfer to a 20x30cm glass baking dish. Freeze until frozen, stirring every 30 minutes, about 3 hours. This can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep frozen. Alternately, churn in an ice cream maker if you have one!
For the pandan chiffon, beat egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Add sugar one tablespoon at a time and beat thoroughly after each addition until stiff peaks form. In a separate bowl whisk egg yolks with caster sugar until fluffy. Add coconut milk, vegetable oil, pandan paste, vanilla extract, flour and baking powder. Whisk until combined. Gently fold the egg whites into the yolk mixture in 3 batches.
Pour into a 25cm cake tin, lined with baking paper (or use a loaf pan and another smaller cake tin). Bake for 30 minutes at 180°C (350°F) or until a skewer comes out clean. When cake is out of the oven, immediately invert the cake still in the tin and place on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely, and then cut into eight 10x10cm squares, about 3cm thick. Any leftovers can be frozen (or nibbled!)
To assemble the dessert, whisk the egg with milk and vanilla in a bowl. Dip squares of cake into the mixture and place four squares on a sheet of baking paper. Fold up to enclose and place on a plate in the microwave for about 1.5 minutes on high heat. Repeat with remaining cake.
In a large frying pan, melt caster sugar without stirring until golden brown then place knobs of butter in the pan and swirl to melt. Shake the pan around a little and turn the heat down to low. Unwrap the cake and place directly on top of the hot caramel.
Allow to cook on the first side for about 1 minute and then using a spatula of palette knife carefully turn over the cake and cook on the other side for a further minute. Turn once more and turn the pan off. Place each piece of caramelized chiffon cake into the center of each serving plate and dust with icing sugar. Scatter strawberries around the plate and top with a scoop of coconut sorbet. Serve immediately.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
One of the biggest thrills for this particular food blogger is finding awesome, quirky cafes that not only have great coffee and great food, but that also make you feel at home. My favourite cafes sprawl far and wide, from Hardware Societe in Melbourne, to Tricycle Café in Hobart, to (the sadly defunct) Moose General Store in Redfern, Silo Bakery in Canberra, and now my latest discovery – the gorgeous Mrs S. in Perth.
I instantly fell in love with the cute décor and extensive use of mauve. The menus change frequently, and were pegged into Little Golden Books. Talk about some good old childhood nostalgia! Mrs S. served breakfast until 11.30am and lunch until 3pm. We were visiting for lunch, and I started with a long black, a sterling example without any bitterness.
Steve chose the Poached Chicken Salad with pineapple, herbs and nam jim dressing. It was a really nice, fresh, summery dish that ticked all the boxes in terms of big, banging flavours and textures.
Of course I couldn’t go past ‘The Manwich’ – an aptly named sandwich of gigantic proportions, absolutely filled to the brim with pulled pork, beetroot pickle, cucumber and rocket. It was delicious! The pork was really flavoursome and the beetroot pickle was the perfect accompaniment. I will say though, that I was defeated by the Manwich, and couldn’t finish it without some help from Steve.
With such a vast array of gorgeous homemade treats, of course we had to finish with something sweet. I chose a slice of carrot cake, which was cut into a generous wedge and slathered in cream cheese icing, with a sprinkling of coconut and crushed pistachio on top. This carrot cake was seriously good, on par with my new favourite. Also, I was amused to find that I own the same plate ;)
Steve had the Cheesecake Brownie, which was a rich and delicious little morsel that we really enjoyed. In fact I liked it so much that it inspired me to create a nice little twist on the recipe, so stay tuned for that real soon.
I can’t wait to come back for breakfast on my next visit to Perth (there’s some cornbread with my name on it!) and if you’re ever in the area I’d definitely recommend Mrs S for a great casual brunch or lunch. I loved everything from the quirky touches like the Little Golden Books as menus to the gorgeous homemade treats, to the lovely staff, who were lovely and, bless them, had even heard of this little blog!
Mrs. S – 178 Whatley Crescent, Maylands (08) 9271 6690
Monday, September 12, 2011
It’s taken me over four years, but I’ve finally made it to 300 posts!! To celebrate, I wanted to make something special, and what better than doughnuts! I’ve gained quite the reputation these days as the ‘Doughnut Queen,’ which I have no qualms with, especially when it inspires me to come up with a combination such as this one.
The idea of a popcorn-flavoured doughnut came to me a few months ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. Popcorn has been popping up (pardon the pun) in desserts all over the place in the last few years, which I think is great. I love the slightly salty flavour it brings to a sweet dish, and I’ll never forget the popcorn ice cream we had at Vasse Felix.
I know it’s a big call, but I think these are some of the best doughnuts I’ve ever made! I infused the custard with popcorn, with some salted butter whisked through at the end. And yes, in case you’re wondering, it really does taste as good as it sounds. I loved the buttery custard, and it carried the popcorn flavour really well, but I think my favourite part was the slight crunch of caramel that coated the top of the doughnuts. I ate way too many of these, much to the despair of my waistline.
The recipe below looks really long, but the custard can be made ahead of time to save time on the day. As with all doughnuts, these taste best on the day that they’re made.
I also wanted to say a quick but heartfelt thanks to all of my readers for all of your visits and comments that have inspired me along the way and made the last 300 posts not only possible, but ridiculously fun! I'm looking forward to the next 300! xox
Popcorn Custard (adapted from Dorie Greenspan)
• 1 cup whole milk
• 1 cup cream
• 2 cups butter popcorn
• 6 large egg yolks
• ½ cup sugar
• 1/3 cup cornflour
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
• 3 ½ tablespoons butter, cut into bits at room temperature
Doughnuts (adapted from Gourmet Traveller)
• 125ml (1/2 cup) pouring cream
• 60ml (1/4 cup milk)
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 225g (1 ½ cups) plain flour, plus extra for dusting
• 1 tablespoon dried yeast
• 30g caster sugar
• Vegetable oil for deep frying
• 1 cup caster sugar
• 2 tablespoons water
• ¼ cup butter popcorn, finely crumbled
To make the popcorn custard, bring the milk and cream to the boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat, add the popcorn, cover and allow to infuse for 45 minutes. Reheat to just before boiling point before continuing.
Meanwhile, in a large heatproof bowl, whisk the yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, pour about ¼ cup of the milk mixture through a sieve into the egg yolks – this will temper or warm the yolks so they won’t curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk through the sieve. Pour back into the saucepan and place over a medium heat, and whisking vigorously and constantly (making sure to get into the edges of the pot) bring the mixture to a boil.
Keep at a boil, still whisking for 1-2 minutes until thickened, then remove the pan from the heat. Whisk in the vanilla and salt, and let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape into a bowl and press a plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal. Refrigerate until cold. It can be kept tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For the doughnuts, combine cream, milk and vanilla in a small saucepan and warm over low heat until lukewarm (30 seconds - 1minute). Meanwhile, combine flour, yeast, sugar and a pinch of fine salt in a large bowl. Add cream mixture and stir to combine. Turn onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes or until the dough is soft and smooth. Transfer to a lighly oiled bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (35-40 minutes).
Knock back the dough and roll out on a floured surface to 2cm thick. Cut out 5cm circles, place on trays lined with baking paper, cover with a clean towel and stand for 30 minutes or until risen. Preheat oil in a deep fryer or deep-sided saucepan to 180°C (350°F). Deep fry zeppole in batches, turning occasionally until golden and cooked through (3-4 minutes). Drain on paper towel and allow to cool slightly.
Place custard into a syringe or piping bag and pipe custard into the center of each doughnut, being careful not to overfill.
To finish, place caster sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, without stirring, until sugar dissolves. Swirl pan to colour evenly for about 5 minutes or until syrup is amber in colour. Remove from the heat.
Working quickly and carefully (as caramel is very hot and caramel burns hurt!) dip the tops of the doughnuts into the caramel using tongs. Place on baking paper and quickly sprinkle with crumbled popcorn. Allow caramel to set and serve immediately.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
When terms like ‘free range’ and ‘organic’ have become marketing buzzwords, it’s refreshing to find a restaurant that is truly passionate about the origins of the food that they’re serving. A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Grasslands Beef at an event held simultaneously at Chophouse and Kingsleys. Grasslands is the newest premium beef product from Cargill Beef Australia. It is naturally free range, and not only tastes better, but it’s actually better for you.
The three-course menu was designed to showcase the best of the beef, matched with Cape Mentelle wines from Margaret River. I had never been to Chophouse before, but I instantly fell in love with the warm, cavernous dining room that reminded me of a disused train tunnel. The spacious room was furnished with leather booths and timber textures, and as Steph said, there’s just something really comforting about an open kitchen.
The entrees were served as share plates for the table. The Grasslands Bresaola with mustard fruits, seeded mustard and olive oil was delicious. A great blend of tastes and textures and a lovely way to start the meal.
The Short Rib Thai beef salad with peanuts, Asian herbs and nuoc cham was served in cute little lettuce cups. It sounded so good in theory but the beef was a little dry, almost like jerky, and perhaps it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but it wasn’t my favourite dish of the evening.
My favourite of the entrees was the Korean Tartare with Mt Lowe Truffle, pine nuts and white soy aioli. It took me a little while to warm to the idea of tartare but colour me converted because this was amazing. I especially loved the shavings of truffle on top, which made it rather decadent! This was definitely a very special dish.
We were in for a treat with our mains, starting with the Slow Roasted Tenderloin with Parmesan onion rings and gremolata. The steak was absolutely delicious, but the highlight of this dish for me was those amazing onion rings! They were perfectly crisp and golden, which is such a change from some sad, soggy ones that I have had in the past. It was a lovely combination, which I’d like to try to replicate at home one day!
The Cote de Bouf, an 800g rib on the bone was absolutely delicious and was cooked perfectly, served with fat chips and a selection of mustards – a lovely match to the 2009 Cape Mentelle Shiraz that accompanied the mains. To go with them, we had generous side servings of crunchy green beans and shoestring fries.
I had been looking forward to the Chophouse Chocolate Block for dessert. It’s such a unique signature, and a beautiful way to end the meal with a bit of theatre at the table as it’s chopped in front of you with a cute miniature cleaver. This time it had delicious caramelised hazelnuts inside, which was a really lovely addition to the silky smooth, rich chocolate. And finally, to finish off the meal, we had a beautifully presented Cheese Plate, with quince paste, crackers and fruit bread.
I know I’ll definitely be back at Chophouse soon – there’s a Black Angus Tomahawk steak calling my name! I loved the warm atmosphere of the restaurant and lovely staff, who were very helpful and accommodating, not to mention the incredible food. Thanks very much to the Chophouse team for inviting me along to the Grasslands launch!
Spicyicecream dined as a guest of Chophouse
Chophouse – 25 Bligh St, Sydney
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
With Fathers Day on the weekend, it made me think about how lucky I am to have grown up with such a great Dad. I've written about him before – how there is almost nothing he can't fix (except that one toaster, which in his words "failed spectacularly") and no trade he can't seem to master, from mechanic to architect, plumber to chef (but, er, not at the same time) and almost everything in between. He’s a pretty clever guy!
Carrot Cake is one of my Dad's favourite desserts, second only to the Kumquat Pecan Pie I made a few years ago. I decided to try a different recipe this year, from the Bourke St Bakery cookbook, which came highly rated by a few friends who have tried it. This is one of my favourite books to just sit and flick through, the pictures are stunning and the recipes are inspirational. Plus it's always nice to try making these awesome bakery treats at home.
The recipe may look a little bit long and complicated but as long as you follow the order of steps as it’s written, you won't have any problems. I doubled the spices (and quadrupled the cinnamon) because I like a headily spiced carrot cake, but stayed true to the rest of the recipe and it turned out beautifully. The cake was quite light thanks to the meringue component that is folded in at the end, and I really like the rustic look.
While I like this version better than my usual go-to recipe, especially with the addition of walnuts, Dad ever-so-slightly preferred the other one, which produces a slightly denser cake. But the thing every great carrot cake should have, no exceptions, is a fantastic cream cheese icing, so I used my favourite recipe, which is possibly the easiest (and dare I say it, most delicious) icing in the entire world, and that is something that Dad and I definitely agree on.
Happy Father’s Day, Daddy xox
Adapted from Bourke St Bakery Cookbook
• 70g walnuts
• 150g self-raising flour
• ¼ teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 2 egg whites
• 60g caster sugar (for eggwhites)
• 1 egg
• 1 egg yolk
• 160g caster sugar (for egg yolks)
• 170ml extra light olive oil
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 125g carrots, peeled and grated
Cream Cheese Icing
• 250g cream cheese, room temperature
• 1 cup icing sugar, sifted
• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
• 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F) and grease a 20cm round cake tin and line the base and sides with baking paper. The paper should protrude about 2.5cm above the tin.Place the walnuts on a baking tray and cook for 4-5 minutes or until lightly roasted. Cool and cut into thirds.
Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt into a bowl. Repeat to ensure they are evenly mixed.Put the egg whites in a very clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks start to form. Slowly pout in the sugar for the egg whites while the motor is still running and whisk until soft peaks form. Quickly transfer the meringue to another bowl and set aside until needed.
Put the egg and egg yolk in the bowl of an electric mixer and add the sugar for egg yolks. Mix on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until the mixture doubles in volume and is quite airy. With the motor still running, slowly pour the oil in a thin stream being careful that it doesn’t split or deflate too much.Remove the bowl from the mixer and with a spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture until combined. Fold in the carrots and walnuts. Working quickly, lightly fold in the meringue, but do not fold in completely. You should still be able to see white streaks through the mixture.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. You may need to drop the oven temperature to 180°C (350°F) after the first 30 minutes if the top is browning too quickly.
To make cream cheese icing, combine ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth.
Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for about 30 minutes before turning it onto a wire rack to cool completely. Using a serrated knife, slice horizontally through the centre of the cake to form two even-sized layers and fill with cream cheese frosting. Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and serve.