Monday, February 27, 2012
I would be in a world of trouble if someone asked me to name my favourite fruit. Could I do a top 10 perhaps? Don't tell the peaches and the strawberries but figs are right up there. I look forward to fig season every year, and I love that they go so well in both sweet and savoury recipes. So this month I thought I would share 13 interesting ways to use figs while their short season lasts!
Picture Credits: The Kitchn & The Party Dress
1. The Old Fashioned has made a comeback in recent times, thanks in part to shows like Mad Men. I love the sound of this version with figs from The Kitchn. It looks like the perfect drink for autumn!
2. This fancy Fizzy Fig Cocktail from The Party Dress is about as festive as you can get, not to mention that it's absolutely beautiful! Plus I lovelovelove the idea of homemade flavoured sugar cubes. Imagine all the flavour possibilities! Plus they would make lovely little gifts for your foodie friends.
Picture Credits: Eat Boutique & Donna Hay
3. I've recently been interested in infusing my own vodka but ive been a little intimidated by the whole process. This Fig and Vanilla Vodka from Eat Boutique shows how easy peasy it can be. And just think of all the delicious ways you could use your fig-infused vodka! Mmmm...
4. An oldie but a goodie, I remember when I first saw the recipe for this Fig Martini in Donna Hay magazine and thought it sounded so grown up and sophisticated. I’m looking forward to impressing the girls with this one at our next lunch.
5. This list wouldn’t be complete without some kind of boozed up iced treat, and thse Fig and Port Popsicles from Bakers Royale are just beautiful. That colour is so striking and I bet they would taste absolutely delicious!
6. Another classy and stylish dessert is this Coconut Panna Cotta with Fig Syrup from Inspring the Everyday (a blog that I discovered recently but have fallen in love with!) that would be perfect for your next dinner party! I love the sound of a dairy-free coconut panna cotta for delicious twist on such a classic dessert.
7. Tartelette does it again with a gorgeous French dessert, Gateau au Riz, or a baked rice pudding studded with figs. It looks absolutely delicious, and this is definitely a recipe I want to try very soon.
8. One of the easiest and most delicious things you could do with figs is a Galette. No fiddly pie crusts here! This Honeyed Ricotta, Fig and Lavender Galette from my archives was a favourite last summer, and one that I'll definitely be making again soon! You could even add some prosciutto and a few sprigs of thyme for a savoury lunchtime version.
9. As I mentioned before, figs are delicious in both sweet and savoury recipes, and this Sausage Goats Cheese Pizza with fresh figs from Cilantropist looks completely delicious!
10. I love this adaptable recipe for 'Whatever' Upside Down Cake from Gourmet Traveller. Their version uses figs (and looks amazing!) but you could use almost any fruit that is in season, making it a great one to add to your repertoire.
11. I can’t believe that I never thought of this before, since the flavours go so beautifully together, but this Fig Balsamic Jam from Burnt Carrots sounds absolutely delicious! I can imagine how awesome it would be as part of a cheese platter, or even just spread on hot toast for breakfast. This recipe is definitely going on my long list of things to make!
12. I always get excited when Aran from Cannelle et Vanille updates her blog, because her writing and photos are stunning. This post actually has two delicious recipes - Fig Hazelnut Financiers, which look delicious and this stunning Fig and Champagne Sabayon. Isn’t it just beautiful!
13. One of my favourite combinations in the world is fig and ginger (well, if we’re being honest – almost anything and ginger!) so when trying to come up with a great recipe with figs, of course it was this that I thought of! And what a great recipe it is! Creamy, rich, caramelly, gingery, boozy, it ticks all the boxes and is a perfect match for the caramelised figs. It’s the perfect dessert for this time of year, straddling the line between summer and autumn.
Rum and Ginger Flan with Caramelised Figs
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
• 90g caster sugar
• 65ml water
• 2 tablespoons rum
• 1 cup milk
• 160g caster sugar
• 1 thumb size knob of ginger, peeled and sliced
• 6 egg yolks
• 1 egg
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• To serve, 4 figs, brown sugar
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Combine 90g caster sugar and 65ml water in a saucepan and stir over medium heat to dissolve sugar. Bring to the boil, and cook until sugar turns deep caramel in colour. Add rum, stir to combine (being careful as mixture may spit). Pour caramel evenly between 4 ovenproof ramekins.
Meanwhile, bring milk, remaining caster sugar and ginger to the boil in a separate saucepan, for 5 minutes or to reduce mixture slightly. Remove from the heat and cover, allowing to infuse for at least 30 minutes. Whisk egg yolks, egg and vanilla in a heatproof bowl. Strain milk mixture over (discard ginger) and whisk to combine. Pour evenly between caramel filled ramekins. Place them in a roasting pan, fill with boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins and bake until set (30-40 minutes depending on the size of your ramekins) Remove from pan, cool, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours or until cool.
To serve, cut figs in half and dip cut sides into brown sugar. Preheat a fry pan or BBQ plate, and place figs cut side down. Cook until caramelised. Serve flans in the ramekins, or dip bases into a pan of hot water and invert onto plates. Serve with caramelised figs.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
“We have to go there!” my cousin Ros exclaimed upon reading a review of Barrio Chino. I had been meaning to check out the new Mexican place that had opened up around the corner from my office so immediately I agreed, and so plans were made to have her upcoming birthday dinner there. Because we were in a group, we were given three menus to choose from, which all seemed like excellent value. We had the $35 menu and there was sooo much food, we all left very satisfied.
A pitcher of Margaritas was a must. A second pitcher of Margaritas is also a must. We got stuck into the Guacamole, Salsa and Chips while we waited for the rest of the group to arrive. The guac is made to order, and is one of the better versions I’ve had, though El Capo still takes the cake on this one. The roasted tomato and mint salsa was great too, but it was the guac that I kept going back for. Our chips were replenished when we ran out.
One of my (and birthday girl Roslyn’s) favourite dishes of the night was the Albondigas, which are pork and beef meatballs with an insanely delicious smoky tomato and chipotle sauce. I still think about these, months later!
One of my favourite things on any Mexican restaurant menu is BBQ corn. Charry and sweet, Barrio Chino’s version was served with chipotle mayo, queso and lime, and was everything you would expect from this dish.
And now let the tacos begin! We were served platters of five different varieties, with sides of refritos (pureed pinto beans), Mexican rice and three types of hot sauce. The tacos themselves are small, but they’re definitely not short of fillings. First up was the Chicken borracho with chipotle-beer braised chicken, crema, avocado, lettuce. While this was great, I always feel that chicken tacos are simply less impressive by default than beef or pork.
And the Beef Barbacoa tacos are particularly awesome at Barrio Chino. The brisket is smoky and fall-apart tender, served with red chilli sauce, lime cured red onion and oregano. A must order!
Next was the Baja Market Fish with lightly battered blue eye, cumin-lime crema, cabbage and coriander. I didn’t manage to try these but the consensus was that they were very good, with a great variety of textures. I didn’t manage to get a photo of the Vegetarian tacos with roasted pumpkin, capsicum, cactus and toasted pepitas. These were unexpectedly spicy!
Saving the best til last? The Carnitas tacos were the final ones to arrive and I was struggling for stomach space by this point but of course I had to try them! Chock full of braised pork, onion and cilantro, I think they tied with the brisket tacos as my favourites of the night. And unlike Mamasita and La Cholita, where the tacos needed help from the condiments to save them from being a little bland, these didn’t. But that smoky chipotle sauce was awesome!
As a side note, Barrio Chino also does taco specials, and on my second visit (alas without my camera this time) we had an absolutely freaking awesome Duck and Pomegranate taco. The a la carte menu also includes other delicious sounding shared dishes including tostadas and quesadillas. We skipped dessert in favour of birthday cake, though the churros and the traditional Mexican flan both sound delicious and I’ll have to remember to leave room to try them on my next visit.
The restaurant filled up quickly after we arrived (evidently popular with the hipster crowd), the atmosphere was boisterous and fun and there was a line out the door when we left. They don’t take bookings for groups under ten, but there’s a great little bar inside where you can have a drink while you wait for your table. Barrio Chino ticked all the boxes for me, especially those amazing meatballs and brisket tacos.
Happy Birthday Ros (sorry that this post is several months after the fact!) xox
Barrio Chino, 28-30 Bayswater Rd, Kings Cross (02) 8021 9750
Monday, February 20, 2012
Just consider this blog an ode to how much I love summer fruit. I’ve resolved to make as many delicious things as I possible can with my favourites before the season is over, and so far that has included berries (a few times), peaches, plums and today we’re talking mangoes.
It was brought to my attention recently that I didn’t have a single mango recipe here at all, though that kind of makes sense, since we all love them, so mangoes don’t last long in this house! I thought I’d rectify that glaring omission and spent the entire week thinking about what I could make.
I had a heap of ideas, but I kept coming back to the idea of pairing mango and saffron together. I thought it sounded interesting so decided to give it a try in a swirled ice cream. Since my fancy new ice cream maker lives on the other side of the country, I made my favourite no churn recipe, which seriously couldn’t be easier.
I added a pinch of saffron to a homemade mango puree, but unfortunately the saffron taste was a little bit subtle in the finished product, and most wouldn’t even know it was there. It was still totally delicious though, so I’ve added the saffron as optional in the recipe below.
The ice cream tastes just like a Mango Weis bar, one of my favourite Australian summer treats. The humble ice block has been immortalised into a gorgeous dessert at Sepia restaurant in Sydney. And while my take is much more simple, it’s still a winning flavour combination that can’t go wrong.
Mango and Saffron Swirl Ice Cream
Makes about 1L
Adapted from Vanilla Bean Blog
Mango Saffron Puree
• 2 ripe mangoes
• Large pinch of saffron
• 1 tablespoon boiling water
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
• 1 can condensed milk
• Seeds of ½ vanilla bean, scraped
• 2 cups cold heavy cream
To make the mango puree, cut mangoes in half and scoop out as much flesh as you can into the bowl of a food processor. Stir saffron into boiling water and add to the mango. Pulse food processor until no chunks of mango remain and pass mixture through a fine sieve. Set aside until required.
To make the ice cream, place condensed milk and vanilla bean together in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl or in a stand mixer, beat cream on high until stiff peaks form. With a rubber spatula, gently fold whipped cream into condensed milk mixture. Pour one quarter of the mixture into a regular size loaf pan or cake tin and swirl through some of the mango puree. Repeat three more times, alternating the ice cream mixture with mango puree. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm. Mixture will keep up to one week in the freezer.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
I’ve always thought of plums as more of an autumn fruit than a summer one, but with this uncharacteristically cool and wet summer that we’ve been having, this sort of dessert has never seemed more appropriate! If you’re in Sydney you’ll know what I mean, and the long range forecast doesn’t look much better with rain predicted almost every day in the next month. I made this crumble on Sunday afternoon, just before we got a gusty southerly change and a huge summer storm swept through.
But while the weather has been average, the plums have been just gorgeous this year. When thinking about what to pair them with in a dessert, I kept coming back to Pedro Ximénez sherry. I had a little leftover from Karen’s cake, so I thought I’d give it a try in a crumble. And, happily, it was delicious.
Just look at that colour! So gorgeous. If you don’t have PX handy, a nice Port would also work well I think. I used a combination of black plums and sweet dainty sugarplums, but feel free to use whatever you find at the market. There are some beautiful varieties available, some sweet and others a little more tart.
For the crumble itself, I was inspired to try one using pecans as in the beautiful plum feature from the latest Donna Hay magazine. I had never tried using pecans in a crumble before but they were gorgeous with the plums!
And while the season lasts, here are a few of my favourite plum recipes from the archives
- Little Plum and Brown Butter Cakes
- Honey Parfait with Grilled Plums
- Plum, Brown Sugar and Lime Sorbet
Plum and Pedro Ximénez Crumble
• 5-6 plums, depending on their size (I used a mixture of black plums and sugarplums)
• 2 tablespoons raw sugar
• ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
• Seeds of half a vanilla bean, scraped
• ¼ cup Pedro Ximénez sherry, or Port
Crumble (adapted from Donna Hay)
• 2 tablespoons raw sugar
• ½ cup pecans, roughly chopped
• 30g butter, melted
• ¼ cup plain flour
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F). Cut plums into eighths (or halves if using sugar plums) and stir to combine in a bowl with raw sugar, cinnamon, vanilla seeds and PX. Place into an ovenproof baking dish.
To make the crumble, place the sugar, pecans, melted butter, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and mix well to combine. Scatter crumble over plum mixture and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling and crumble is golden. Serve warm, with ice cream.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
I’m not sure why it has taken so long for me to write this post, considering this was actually my birthday dinner with two of my favourite people, Steve and Denéa. Yes, this was June last year! Since then, I have been back to Saké quite a few times, and each time has been flawless. An unassuming entrance near the Argyle Steps in the Rocks leads into a cosy dining room, which quickly filled up on that chilly Friday night.
We were seated at the sushi bar, which surrounds the kitchen and is probably the best seat in the house. It’s fascinating to watch the chefs work under the watchful eye of Chef Shaun Presland, wielding sharp knives with the utmost precision. We order a bottle of Rosé and started with some Edamame, served simply with salt. It was Steve’s first time eating edamame, but he quickly got the hang of popping open the pods!
With friends in the kitchen, Denéa tells the chefs to send us whatever they’d like, and I just knew we were in for a treat. First up there was this beautiful dish – slices of snapper fanned out with white sesame, yuzu and shredded daikon. I loved this delicate, fresh dish that set a high standard for the things to come!
One of Saké’s most famous signature dishes is the Kingfish Jalapeno Sashimi, served with yuzu soy, jalapeno slices and coriander. The flavour combination was phenomenal! The dressing was citrussy and salty, and the jalapeno gave a punchy flavour that worked so well with the fresh, firm fish slices. It was one of my favourite dishes of the whole night!
The Beef Tataki was a surprise from the kitchen, seared tenderloin was sliced paper thin, with garlic crisps for texture, snow pea sprouts and tataki sauce. The cherry tomato on the side was a lovely addition too.
A must order at Saké is the Popcorn Shrimp. I would be happy with a bowl of this all to myself and a nice cold beer for my last meal, it really is that good! Bite size pieces of shrimp in a tempura batter, fried until crispy and served with a spicy mayonnaise. We may or may not have fought over the last one. Don’t miss this dish folks, it’s a winner.
Another standout of the evening was the Steamed Prawn Dumplings, which looked different to any dumplings I had ever seen before! Inspired by Chinese shumai dumplings and covered with what look like thin noodles. They were generously filled with prawn and served with a spicy ponzu sauce. Seriously delicious.
Up until a few months ago, I wouldn’t have called myself a sushi fan, but this dinner changed my mind about it. The S Express is to this day some of the best sushi I’ve ever had, with scallops, spicy mayo, cucumber, seared salmon, witlof and sweet sauce. What a fabulous combination of tastes and textures! It’s not cheap, coming in at $22 and making it by far the most expensive sushi roll I’ve ever eaten, but it’s worth every cent!
We were defeated by this point and couldn’t fit in dessert, but this had been an amazing meal and we were all very happy. Since this very first visit, Saké has become one of my favourite Sydney restaurants that I love to go back to every chance I get! There are so many unique, fabulous dishes on the menu, but it’s hard to go past your favourites.
Saké Restaurant, 12 Argyle St, The Rocks (02) 9259 5656
Sunday, February 5, 2012
It’s been a long, long time since I last made cupcakes, but I’ve had them on the brain lately and it seemed like the perfect time to make some. They had to be chocolate, of course, but the choice of what to pair them with was quite difficult with all the beautiful fruit around this summer. I thought about cherries, raspberries, and even figs, but some beautiful blackberries caught my eye at the market and instantly knew what I wanted to do.
I should preface this by saying that this is the second week in a row that I’ve made this same Devil’s Food Cake. And the search for the best chocolate cake might now be over because David Lebovitz has the answer! I trust this man implicitly on all matters of chocolate and ice cream.
I stuck pretty closely to the recipe, but instead of using coffee as in the original, I used black tea, which gave it a beautiful subtle flavour. I love that such a simple recipe can produce such a delicious cake that would be the most amazing base for any number of icing flavours.
I tossed up using a blackberry ganache, but I wanted to see that great purple colour so I chose to make a buttercream instead. It was only when I was editing the photos that I realised how similar these cupcakes look to Steph’s raspberry cupcakes! Told you we were soulmates ;)
Devil’s Food Cupcakes
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Makes 14-15 cupcakes
• 9 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
• 1 ½ cups plain flour
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• ¼ teaspoon bicarb soda
• 112g butter, at room temperature
• 1 ½ cups caster sugar
• 2 eggs, at room temperature
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
• ½ cup strong black tea
• ½ cup milk
• 2 large egg whites
• ½ cup caster sugar
• 125g butter, at room temperature, cut into 2cm cubes
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ¾ cup blackberries, fresh (or frozen and thawed)
• Extra blackberries, to decorate
Line cupcake tray with cupcake papers and preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Sift together the cocoa powder, flour, salt, bicarb soda, and baking powder in a bowl. Using an electric mixer with a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time until fully incorporated and then mix in the vanilla extract.
Mix together the tea and milk. Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the tea and milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients. Spoon into cupcake cases, filling about 2/3rds full. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in tin about 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack and cool completely before icing.
To make the blackberry buttercream, puree the blackberries and strain to remove the seeds and set aside. Whisk together egg white and sugar in a large heatproof bowl. Clip a candy thermometer to side of bowl. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until mixture reaches 160°F and sugar has dissolved, about 5 minutes.
With a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg white mixture on high speed until cooled and thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium, and add butter, 1 cube at a time, beating until incorporated after each addition. If mixture is runny at this point, refrigerate for 10 minutes and then continue beating until it starts to hold its shape (this can take a while). Beat in blackberry puree and vanilla. Place in a piping bag and ice cupcakes. Top with a fresh blackberry and serve. If you have any icing leftover, you can store it in an airtight container for a few days.