Showing posts with label Australian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Australian. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Simple Dinners 08 / Lamb, Pea, Mint & Fetta Salad

lamb, pea, fetta & mint salad

While I love making elaborate meals when friends come over for dinner, when I'm cooking for myself I like to keep things super simple and relatively healthy. I love writing this Simple Dinners column every month, because it allows me to either try brand new things in search of easy weeknight meals, or to share dishes that have become my favourites over the last few months.

I've made this salad a lot because it's so quick and delicious. The flavour combination works really well, and it's filling but not heavy. With Australia Day coming up and a long, lazy weekend on the way, I've had this recipe on the brain and thought it was a perfect time to share it here.

To me, this is a perfect fresh, modern Aussie salad that you could cook on the BBQ, or serve at room temperature on a picnic. It's gluten free and has no carbs, so you can definitely justify an extra serving of pavlova ice cream or lamingtons for dessert ;)

Here are a few ways to mix it up...
  • It's a great way to use leftover roast lamb or even beef
  • Serve this salad with grilled lamb cutlets on top instead of the sliced lamb
  • Mix in cooked cous cous or quinoa for a more substantial meal
  • Use grilled haloumi instead of the lamb to make it vegetarian friendly
  • Try baby cos lettuce if you don't love the peppery taste of rocket
  • Marinate the lamb in different spices - cumin, sumac and chilli would be delicious
  • I used goats fetta this time, but normal fetta is also a winner
  • A lemon mint vinaigrette would definitely be tasty!
  • If asparagus isn't in season, try blanched broccolini or green beans

For other Aussie recipes, click here.

lamb, pea, fetta & mint salad


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pavlova Ice Cream Smash

pavlova ice cream

I think I got a bit prematurely excited when I thought that with the cruisy freelance lifestyle I've adopted, that I might actually get to enjoy a Sydney summer for a change. Well, life and work have conspired to be non-stop busy since the new year began and I spent 17 hours yesterday looking at my computer screen. But as I mentioned in my last post, this year is all about gratitude, and I truly am very grateful to be doing what I love, sometimes while still in my pj's. Here are a few other things that are making me smile these days...

• sunset gin & tonics • brainstorming dessert ideas • winning scrabble • T2's sencha quince tealooking through childhood photos • this view (again) • solo lunches • spontaneous adventures • my plush zombie named benny • hot chocolate fuelled business planning sessions • bri's amazingly honest post about anxiety and insecurity • perfect summer days • my new chevron rug • breakfasts from room 10 • decluttering my closet (and donating a bunch of clothes) • dreaming about visiting palm springs • the best ever homemade mac & cheese • a garden full of hydrangeas • working on exciting, inspiring projects • eating summer fruits every single day!

pavlova ice cream

Speaking of summer and fruit, Australia Day is just around the corner and I've got you covered for dessert. I love the very casual and laid back nature of our national holiday! No matter what your plans are - backyard BBQ or beach picnic - this patriotic pavlova no churn ice cream smash is made in jars, so just twist on the lids to make it perfectly portable. In my opinion, it tastes best when slightly softened and melty.

I layered the ice cream with a mixed berry compote, crumbled meringues (store bought is fine for this) and some fresh passionfruit pulp. The combination was sublime. I loved digging in and finding a juicy blueberry, or a piece of meringue that melted in your mouth. You can also experiment with other fruit in there as well. I think mango curd and kiwi fruit, or strawberry and rhubarb would be absolutely delicious too.

And for all of my readers and friends in Victoria, Canberra and South Australia, hope you're managing to stay cool in those crazy hot temperatures! And if you need a sweet treat to cool down, check out these refreshing recipes.

pavlova ice cream

Monday, December 23, 2013

Simple Dinners 07 / Prawn and Watermelon Panzanella

prawn watermelon panzanella

An Australian Christmas is a magical thing. 

There's usually seafood, salads and pavlova topped with lots of summer fruit. With some luck it's warm and sunny, and lunch is usually followed by a dip in the pool... unless you opt for a nap on the couch instead. I really can't imagine Christmas any other way.

If you're looking for a last minute Christmas salad or side dish or even a quick summer dinner, this is it. Ticking all the boxes - seasonal, delicious, pretty on the plate and a little bit unique, this Prawn and Watermelon Panzanella combines some seriously awesome flavours in the one dish. From start to finish, the whole thing took less than 15 minutes and can even be made on the BBQ.

A traditional panzanella is a great way to use in-season tomatoes and day old bread, making it a fantastic summer meal. But I took it a step further, because I love watermelon, feta and mint together. And to make it a little more substantial as a meal, I added some beautiful pan-fried prawns, but you could add grilled chicken or thinly sliced rare beef or lamb instead, or leave out the meat entirely for a yummy vegetarian dish!

I wish all of my readers a wonderful, relaxing Christmas. I hope you enjoy lots of great food and good times with your family and friends. Thank you so much for all of your support this year, and I'm very excited about what 2014 will bring! I'll be back next week sharing some of my favourite posts of the year xx

prawn watermelon panzanella


Friday, January 25, 2013

Lamington Ice Cream Pops

lamington ice cream pop
Australia Day is one of my favourite holidays. It's by far the most relaxed, a great excuse to spend time with friends over a few beers and fire up the BBQ. I also like showcasing some classic Australian dishes here on my blog, with one of my favourite (obviously) being the Lamington. Last year I recreated it in doughnut form, which was awesome, but this year I wanted to turn it into ice cream. Chocolate and coconut are two things that work together so well, so I had high hopes for these little ice cream pops.

While they aren't the prettiest dessert I've ever made, I still loved them. They were better than a Magnum ice cream. I used my favourite no churn ice cream recipe, which has to be the easiest in the world. Using only a handful of ingredients you can create a delicious and super creamy ice cream without a fancy ice cream maker that can be adapted in any way you can think of. Can't get much better than that!

lamington ice cream pop

I used high quality chocolate both in the ice cream itself and for the coating and then rolled it in coconut chips for extra crunch. However if coconut chips aren't available where you live, some toasted shredded coconut would also be delicious. You could also swap the chocolate ice cream for vanilla or coconut, or even strawberry if you prefer! Unfortunately the coating wasn't quite as even as I would have liked, so if anyone has any suggestions as to how to do this better next time, I'm all ears!

These pops can be made well in advance and kept in the freezer and I think would be the perfect sweet ending for any Australia Day celebrations you've got planned this long weekend!

For more Australian dishes, click here

lamington ice cream pop

Monday, January 21, 2013

Peach Melba Panna Cotta

peach melba panna cotta

With Australia Day coming up next weekend, I thought I'd start the celebrations early with a cute new take on an Aussie dessert. Simple and unfussy but beautiful and summery, I think these would be the perfect sweet ending to a long weekend picnic or backyard BBQ!

The Peach Melba was created in the late 1800's at a dinner party to honour singer Australian singer Nellie Melba and has since become a classic dessert. Typically containing peaches, raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream, I wanted to use these flavours (two of my absolute favourite summer fruits!) in a pretty panna cotta.

I started with a classic vanilla bean panna cotta, the perfect blank slate for any number of other flavours. The top layer is a sunny peach jelly that I again kept quite simple with just a little lime juice and honey to allow the flavour of the peaches to really shine. You may need to add more or less sweetness depending on how ripe your peaches are. On top, just a few raspberries for a slightly tart contrast to the sweet and creamy dessert. When you get a little bit of everything in the one spoonful, it's delicious.

peach melba panna cotta

I thought the jars were a nice way to display this pretty dessert, and you can just put on the lids to make them perfectly portable for your picnic. Of course you could also make these in ramekins and turn them out onto a serving plate for a more elegant presentation. If you do this I'd reverse the order of the recipe below so your peach jelly layer is made first and is on the top when unmoulded.

I know I posted a peach recipe last week, but they are just fantastic at the moment and I want to make the most of them while their short season lasts! If you feel the same as I do, check out this post with lots more great ways to use peaches from the archives and also some of my favourite blogs. Hopefully if time permits, I'll be back later in the week with another great Aussie recipe!

peach melba panna cotta

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sweethearts Rooftop BBQ, Kings Cross

sweethearts rooftop bbq
In one of my recent posts I mentioned one new venue that we opened recently, but we actually have another new baby - yes, that's right, we opened two new venues within two weeks of each other (phew)! Sweethearts BBQ is located on the rooftop of the Sugarmill building in Kings Cross, which also houses Kit & Kaboodle nightclub... and I like it so much that I've been back 5 times in the last 4 weeks!

Think sunshine (although there's a retractable roof too for when it rains), beers, ciders, cocktail pitchers and shandies. Did your aunties drink shandies too? The food is fresh as can be, and perhaps a little fancier than your regular family BBQ - definitely no burnt snags here! I think this will turn into the perfect place to spend summer evenings and catch up with friends over a few drinks and delicious food to share. I love the super relaxed vibe and tick box menus.

sweethearts rooftop bbq
In the name of research, we tried all the cocktail pitchers and I would be hard pressed to pick a favourite. The Hills Hoist above is definitely a crowd pleaser and perfect for sharing with the girls containing watermelon, apple, lemon, mint, gin and soda. But I also really liked the Mango Tree that mixed up mango liqueur, pineapple, rum, ginger ale and lemon. The tap cider (James Squire I believe) is also great, and they also offer a Spiked Cider Slushie that might just become my drink of the summer.

Onto the food! We started with some barbecued turkish and olive bread (similar to how my Dad does it for our family BBQ's) and the thickest, fluffiest chips with a homemade tomato sauce that I think had a hint of Dijon mustard in it. I love when the potato skins are left on chips, so of course these were a favourite. I recommend adding Truffle Salt for $1 extra.

sweethearts rooftop bbq
After that, the starters started coming out fast. I was looking forward to trying the soy-braised brisket and beetroot burgers, although I was expecting it to be a full size sandwich. However mini size was probably for the best considering how much food there was! As a general rule, I will love anything containing brisket, and these were no exception - the tender beef was delicious with the beetroot relish.

sweethearts rooftop bbq
Sweethearts potato salad was a blast from the past, with bits of crispy bacon and sweet corn kernels, it reminded me of family BBQ's when I was younger. Not to mention that it was served on a plate that looks like something my Nanna would own! I liked the little bit of heat that the green chillies brought to this version.

sweethearts rooftop bbq
A surprise favourite of mine also from the 'Rabbit Food' category was the Grilled Watermelon with feta, mint and pita chips. A sort of unusual combination to be sure, but wow, it works so well and is definitely a must order when you visit!

sweethearts rooftop bbq
The Grilled Prawns are a tribute to Paul Hogan's shrimp on the barbie, cooked in butter and loads of garlic. A great dish to share with your mates over a few beers.

I don't have any photos of them but a recent favourite dish has been the Skewers. On offer are chicken, beef, pork, salmon belly and veggie with your choice of condiment, so there are endless combinations for deliciousness. I love the chilli caramel with the pork, the chimmichurri with the chicken, and the truffle salt with the salmon.

sweethearts rooftop bbq
Another standout was the Glazed Pork Belly. Just look at that crispy skin! It was beautifully cooked and served with a salad of sweet and sour slaw, chilli, pear and sesame. Suze, this one's for you!

sweethearts rooftop bbq
Promise me you'll try the ribs when you visit. It's a little more unusual to see lamb ribs on a restaurant menu, but when they're done perfectly like this, it's a welcome surprise. I've never seen ribs that fall off the bones like these do, and the honey, chilli, coriander and lime sauce is absolutely delicious.

sweethearts rooftop bbq
As stuffed as I was, I couldn't rightly turn down bone marrow butter now, could I? I've wanted to try this since I was designing the menus! We requested our Black Angus Sirloin very rare and it was served perfectly pink. Once the butter started to melt into the meat, it was absolutely incredible. I also liked the selection of mustards that accompanied it, but who are we kidding, it was all about the butter.

sweethearts rooftop bbq
What's an Aussie BBQ without the classic Aussie dessert - pavlova! Sweethearts' version is a Smashed Pav with summer berries and cream with flecks of vanilla bean throughout and it's absolutely freaking delicious. Also on the dessert menu is a delicious grilled pineapple with coconut sorbet, and a selection of house made choc tops and cornetto ice creams!

I have to say it's very interesting being involved in the early stages of opening a venue, from the first mood boards to menu designs to finally seeing it all come together and open. I loved the food, the decor, the lovely staff, the casual atmosphere, touches of nostalgia coming through in the retro coasters and plates, and even the old school hip hop music playing. I think this will definitely become one of my regular haunts over the summer months!

Sweethearts BBQ on Urbanspoon

Sweethearts BBQ, 37 Darlinghurst Rd Kings Cross (02) 9368 7333

Spicyicecream dined as a guest of Sweethearts BBQ.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Vanilla Passionfruit Slice

passionfruit vanilla slice

When I got home from Perth, there was a gorgeous and unexpected surprise waiting for me at home - a beautiful basket of passionfruit, sent by the lovely folks at Impact Communication. While I love passionfruit, it's not something I bake with very often and I was thankful for this little reminder to do so.

It took me a little while to think of what to make – everything from pavlova to cocktails crossed my mind – but when I saw this recipe in Gourmet Traveller, I was sold. My mum is a vanilla slice fiend! It's one of her favourite desserts and one of the only ones she's made special requests for (every year around Mothers Day in fact!)

passionfruit vanilla slice

For those that don’t know, a vanilla slice is kind of an Australian classic, and can be a beautiful thing when done right – two layers of flaky puff pastry, with a creamy vanilla custard in between. I was never a huge fan until I made my first homemade one with real vanilla bean a few years ago. It was so different from any storebought one I'd ever tried - the custard wasnt stodgy or starchy, the pastry wasnt soggy and the vanilla taste really shone through.

This time around I added fresh passionfruit to both the custard and the glaze and it was absolutely delicious. Actually what really got me was how good the passionfruit made my kitchen smell for hours and hours afterwards. But something disturbing that I noticed, was the fact that every commercial brand of puff pastry in the supermarket contained some kind of vegetable shortening and not real butter. So next time I’m being a little more organised and picking up a pack of Careme pastry, or taking the time to make my own puff pastry from scratch. The difference is incredible and helps to make this a truly spectacular dessert.

Thanks again to Impact Communication for the gorgeous passionfruits that inspired this dessert.

passionfruit vanilla slice

Vanilla Passionfruit Slice
Serves 6
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller

• 2 sheets butter puff pastry

Passionfruit Vanilla Custard
• 150g caster sugar
• 100g cornflour
• 810ml (3 ¼ cups) milk
• 125ml passionfruit juice*
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 2 egg yolks
• 40g butter, softened

*To make passionfruit juice, blend passionfruit pulp in a food processor to crack seeds then strain through a fine sieve. You will need about 6 or 7 passionfruits.

Passionfruit Icing
• 150g pure icing sugar, sifted
• 2 passionfruit, pulp only

Preheat the oven to 200°C (390°F). Roll out the pastry to fit inside a 27x17cm brownie pan. Refrigerate for 20 minutes and prick all over with a fork. Bake for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool on a wire rack.

For the custard, combine sugar and cornflour in a saucepan over medium heat, add milk a little at a time, whisking until smooth. Add juice and vanilla seeds. Bring just to the boil, whisking until smooth and thick. Remove from the heat, whisk in yolks and butter and set aside.

Line brownie pan with baking paper. Place a piece of pastry in the base and pour over the custard. Level with a palette knife and top with another piece of pastry. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set.

For the icing, combine ingredients and a bowl and mix. Spread over slice and serve. Cut with a serrated knife.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lamington Doughnuts

lamington doughnuts

Given that today is Australia Day, I wanted to make something suitably patriotic to celebrate. I wanted to have a bit of fun, with a twist on a classic Australian icon, and given my predilection towards cake, choosing the lamington was a no brainer! I’ve had plenty of average lamingtons in my time, and I’ve learned that nothing beats homemade.

That’s where these Lamington Doughnuts come in. Imagine a fresh, fluffy, perfectly cooked doughnut, filled with warm jam and dipped in a rich chocolate glaze, then tossed in coconut. And they were seriously good.

lamington doughnuts

I’ve listed the jam as optional below, because I won’t lie, I made a complete mess of my kitchen while trying to fill them. I had jam all over my hands, all over my shirt, and all over the kitchen bench! It’s also a good idea not to use a chunky jam because the fruit will block your piping bag. The doughnuts were still delicious without it.

I hope you’re all enjoying your Australia Day with BBQ’s and beers and good times with your mates today! I'll see you back here next week for a nice summery dessert.

lamington doughnuts

Lamington Doughnuts
Makes about 20

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
• ¾ cup strawberry jam, slightly warmed (optional)
• 1 ½ cups coconut (shredded or desiccated)

Chocolate Icing
• 2 cups icing sugar
• ¼ cup cocoa powder
• 10g butter
• ½ cup milk

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.

Fill a piping bag with slightly warmed jam and pipe into the center of each doughnut, being careful not to overfill.

To make the chocolate icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and milk. Stand the bowl over simmering water and stir until icing is of a good consistency. Place coconut in a small bowl. Hold each doughnut on a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Dip into the chocolate icing then toss in coconut, one at a time, to cover. Stand lamington doughnuts on a wire rack until set.

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, January 27, 2010

Thing of Beauty

bourke street bakery
An impromptu picnic with Bourke Street Bakery goodies on our walking tour of Surry Hills

I have extolled more praises about Bourke Street Bakery than I can count, from my daily trips to the Broadway store for coffee and crossiants, and my love of the recipes from the beautiful cookbook. There’s something magical about actually snagging a table at the Surry Hills store, and biting into the crackly crust of a ginger brulee tart. And the sound of the crust as you slice into a fresh loaf of sourdough. This is why I have chosen to cook a recipe from the book each month in 2010. You might remember that Mark and I cooked from the Tartine Bakery cookbook last year, and I wanted to keep with the theme. What better than Bourke Street, a Sydney institution and the home of some of my favourite delicious treats.

This month I have chosen a recipe for sausage rolls, to coincide with Australia Day. Sausage rolls are sold all over Australia, from the footy ground, to kids parties, to fancy bakeries. If we’re being honest, I never really liked sausage rolls. The frozen ones still scare me a little. It even took me a while to get up the courage to try one at Bourke St Bakery, but I’m so glad that I did. When done well, it’s thing of beauty. A flavoursome meaty filling, encased in delicious flaky pastry – it doesn’t get much better than this, except dunked in copious amounts of tomato sauce.

veal & fennel sausage rolls
Veal and Fennel Sausage Rolls. Photo by Simon

I cheated a little bit, not using the book’s recipe for puff pastry, but instead using the remainder of my home made batch that has been sitting in my freezer for the last few months. I have only recently been converted into liking fennel, after having shunned it since I don’t particularly like aniseed. But it was at Sparrow Kitchen & Bar that I changed my mind. The fennel seeds worked so well in the goat meatballs so I knew this recipe would be great. I swapped the pork mince for veal, which was a delicious substitution. I also cut down the pepper in the recipe below, because I think it had a little too much. I made half the recipe, but still ended up with about 16 small sausage rolls.

Unfortunately, the photographs I took didn’t turn out very well, but luckily Simon from The Heart of Food had snapped the one above. Thanks Simon!! These were enjoyed at the most perfect Australia Day lunch at Gourmet Rabbit’s lovely Balmain apartment. It was a fantastic lazy day of cooking, eating, and drinking some really excellent wine with some great people.

We also had goat’s brie, prawns, maple and soy marinated chicken wings, and the most incredible lamb shanks with roasted eggplant and purple sweet potato. For dessert, we had a fruit salad with some delicious Achacha ice cream and a bottle of dessert wine I had to go all the way to Adelaide to find! And that’s what Australia Day should be all about – good food and good friends. With lamb, and prawns, and sausage rolls of course.

Veal and Fennel Sausage Rolls
Adapted from the Bourke St Bakery Cookbook
Makes 12

• 1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
• 30g fennel seeds, finely chopped
• 4 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
• 150g brown onions, finely chopped (about 2 small)
• 150g celery, finely chopped (4-6 stalks)
• 150g carrots, finely chopped (about 2 small)
• 1.2kg finely minced veal
• 40g dry breadcrumbs
• 1 tablespoon salt
• 2 teaspoons white pepper
• Puff Pastry (I used the recipe from Daring Bakers)
• Egg wash, for brushing
• Fennel seeds, for sprinkling

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the fennel seeds and thyme and stir together for 1 minute, or until aromatic. Add the onion, celery and carrot and cook for about 10-15 minutes or until the vegetables are slightly mushy. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
2. Put the veal mince in a large bowl and add the cooled vegetables and breadcrumbs, salt and pepper. Using your hands, mix the meat quite forcefully to thoroughly combine. If you like, you can fry a little ball of the meat to test for seasonings.
3. Roll out the puff pastry into a rectangle, about 92 x 32 cm. Cut the pastry into six rectangles about 15 x 30 cm each. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F).
4. Divide the filling mixture into six equal size portions. On a clean work surface, roll each portion out into a 30cm log with a 3cm diameter. Place each log lengthways in the center of a pastry rectangle. Brush one long edge with egg wash.
5. Firmly fold the pastry over, pressing to enclose the log tightly, leaving the edge open. Cut each roll into 2 or 3 equal size pieces and place on baking trays lined with baking paper, seam side down. Brush the top of each roll with egg wash and sprinkle with fennel seeds.
6. Reduce the oven temperature to 190°C (375°F) and bake for 35-40 minutes or until they are a golden brown roll of steaming oozing goodness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Classic Dessert

chocolate pavlova

Pavlova, the dessert named after famous ballerina Anna Pavlova, whose unknown origin started a culinary turf war between Australia and New Zealand, with both countries claiming the credit for it themselves. Even today the debate still rages, with evidence that Pavlova recipes were published in New Zealand cookbooks as early as 1929. But wherever it came from, it has become a solid part of the cultural cuisines of both nations, and in my family, no Christmas lunch is complete without a slice of lighter-than-air Pavlova.

The recipe I’m sharing with you today is for a decadent chocolate Pav, topped with sweet winter strawberries. The original recipe called for grilled figs to adorn the Pavlova, which is a classy alternative and I’m betting would be absolutely delicious when they’re in season. Other popular toppings include passionfruit, banana, kiwi fruit and berries. But often they are all piled on top together which I find a little unappealing. I like to keep it simple and stick to one or two kinds of fruit to let their flavours really take center stage.

This is a fantastic and easy recipe that is perfect for using up the eggwhites hanging around in your freezer – and trust me, I have many! The addition of Balsamic vinegar might sound odd but it is very subtle and really works well with the flavour of the chocolate. I also loved the pieces of grated chocolate throughout and thought this was a wonderful modern interpretation of a classic dessert.

Chocolate Pavlova
Adapted from Delicious, March 2009
Serves 6-8

• 6 egg whites, at room temperature
• 1 ½ cups caster sugar
• ¼ cup Dutch cocoa powder
• 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
• 40g dark chocolate, finely grated

To serve
• Whipped cream or crème fraiche
• Fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
• Icing sugar or grated chocolate, to dust

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F). Line a 24cm oven tray with baking paper and draw a 23cm circle, or 6-8 x 10cm circles onto the paper.
2. Beat eggwhites in a the clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly beat in sugar, a spoonful at a time, continuing to beat until stiff and shiny.
3. Sift in cocoa, then add vinegar and grated chocolate and fold gently until cocoa has amalgamated.
4. Mound the meringue mixture onto the baking paper within the circles, then smooth the sides and top with a spatula.
5. Place baking tray on the center shelf of the oven and then immediately reduce the temperature to 150°C (300°F) and bake for 1 – 1 ¼ hours. The pavlova should be crisp around the edges and dry on top but when you prod the center it should feel ‘squidgy’. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly adjar and leave the meringue to cool completely in the oven.
6. When ready to serve, invert meringue onto a large flat plate, pile whipped cream or crème fraiche onto the center and place strawberries on top. Dust with icing sugar or grated chocolate, and serve.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cultural Cuisine

vanilla slice

Most Australians are very passionate about their vanilla slice, and rightly so. Much like the lamington or pavlova, it is part of our cultural cuisine. I guess you could call it the laid-back Aussie cousin to the well-dressed French mille-feuille. National events are held annually in its honour where bakers from around the country compete for the coveted title of Best Vanilla Slice. If you’re in Melbourne this blog will tell you where to find a good one, and the criteria that a really good vanilla slice should meet.

When done right, a vanilla slice is a beautiful thing. Each of the three elements – the flaky buttery puff pastry, the creamy vanilla custard and the topping, usually fondant icing, but sometimes passionfruit icing or icing sugar – have to each be perfect to create a really spectacular slice. My mum is a big fan of this particular confection, and I had been promsing to make her a vanilla slice for many months now. Her birthday came and went, but Mother’s Day turned out to be the perfect occasion.

Luckily it was proclaimed to be worth the wait, and I honestly wouldn’t change anything when I make this again the future. The custard comes together easily, with the addition of cornflour so it thickens up nicely to set in the fridge. I used a split vanilla bean and infused the milk/cream mixture for an even stronger vanilla flavour, which is what this is all about after all! The puff pastry is baked with a weight on top (I used another baking tray) which ensures that it puffs evenly. It is just an absolutely fantastic recipe, but make sure you have a lot of friends around because it is at its best on the day it’s made.

Vanilla Slice
Recipe adapted from ‘Modern Classics 2’ by Donna Hay
Makes 9 slices

• 2 sheets ready prepared puff pastry, thawed
• Icing sugar, for dusting

Vanilla Custard
• 1 ½ cups milk
• 1 ½ cups cream
• 60g butter
• 1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1/3 cup cornflour
• ½ cup water
• 6 egg yolks

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Trim each piece of puff pastry to slightly bigger than the slice tin you are using. Place on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper. Top each piece with another baking tray as a weight and bake for 35 minutes or until puffed and golden. Cool on racks.
2. To make the custard, place milk, cream and vanilla seeds and vanilla extract in a medium sized saucepan and heat until just before boiling point. Turn off the heat, cover, and allow to infuse for 10-20 minutes.
3. After it is infused, add butter and sugar and cook until hot but not boiling. Mix the cornflour and water to a smooth paste and whisk into the hot milk mixture. Ad the egg yolks and stir, allowing to simmer for 6 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
4. Line your slice pan with non-stick baking paper. Place one of the pastry sheets on the bottom, pour in the custard and top with remaining pastry. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Cut into squares using a serrated knife. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cooking Outside

BBQ potatoes

Sometimes I wonder if there is anything my dad Alan can’t do. He can fix cars and computers, he can do woodwork and metalwork, he knows just about everything there is to know about nuts and bolts, he has a keen eye for antique furniture, he’s currently doing just about all the work on our new house extension – from planning to plumbing. Oh, and did I mention that he can also cook? He’s even owned a restaurant!

I’ve learnt a lot from my dad. I remember afternoons spent in the garage while he worked on one project or other. I’d keep busy by hammering nails into a piece of wood and then prying them out. Dad has been there to rescue several dinners I have cooked that didn’t quite turn out as planned. He’s taught me the value of preparation and time management when cooking.

One memory that sticks in my mind now is cooking a barbeque with him last year. Each equipped with a pair of tongs and a beer, we chatted while we cooked, and he taught me how to cook a good steak. I love the good old Australian tradition of barbequing. It is perfect for summer because cooking outside keeps the heat out of the house. With the last days of summer stretched out before us, I thought I would share my dad’s way of making amazing barbequed potatoes. He’s been preparing them this way since before I can remember, though I’m sure they would also be nice in thick slices instead of quartered wedges.

What follows is not a recipe as much as a procedure with suggestions. These are the ingredients we use, but I have never measured quantities, it’s all to taste. I would recommend allowing one and a half large potatoes for each person, roughly 6 pieces. The microwave step is important to pre-cook the potatoes before browning them up on the barbeque, but don’t overcook them because they’ll fall apart during cooking. Any leftovers are also great cold.

Dad's BBQ Potatoes
Serves 4

• 6 large potatoes, skin on and washed, cut into quarters.
• Salt and pepper
• Cinnamon, Paprika or Cumin
• Fresh chives or parsley, chopped
• Olive oil

1. Place potatoes in a freezer bag or covered container. Microwave on high for about 6-8 minutes, until just tender.
2. Put potatoes into a large bowl with salt, pepper, cinnamon, fresh herbs and olive oil. Swish the bowl around so potatoes are evenly coated.
3. Heat the barbeque plate. When hot, add a little olive oil and spread to evenly coat the plate. Add the potatoes. Cook, turning over occasionally. Remember that barbeques have hotspots, so you might find they cook quicker in certain areas.
4. When they are well browned, move them over to the slatted grill part of the barbeque to finish them off. You can put them in a low oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of your barbeque.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lord Lamington

lamingtons

Being Australia Day today, I thought I’d bake appropriately. The British landed with the First Fleet on Australian shores and declared it a colony 220 years ago, so Happy Birthday Australia, why don’t you have some cake?

The lamington is undeniably an Aussie icon, much like the meat pie. It was most likely named after a 19th century Queensland Governer, though ironically Lord Lamington apparently hated the dessert named in his honor.

There are many stories about how the cake came into being, but even if the origin of the lamington is a little fuzzy it is nonetheless an enduring favourite. It’s a staple at the local bakery, and one of the best sellers at cake stall fund-raisers.

lamingtons

It can be dressed up with jam and cream but I prefer it plain – butter cake, chocolate icing and coconut. Today I was tempted to add some grated orange zest to the cake mixture but I refrained in the name of keeping it traditional. Don’t let that stop you though, there are so many possible alternatives and additions that could be used. Adding berries or dried fruit to the cake itself would be an interesting substitute for jam.

Lamingtons
Recipe adapted from Women’s Weekly Sweet
Makes about 40 bite-size lamingtons

• 90g butter, softened
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ cup caster sugar
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup self-raising flour
• 2 tablespoons milk
• Shredded or desiccated coconut

Chocolate Icing
• 2 cups icing sugar
• ¼ cup cocoa powder
• 10g butter
• ½ cup milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a rectangular slice pan with baking paper
2. Beat butter, vanilla, sugar, eggs, flour and milk with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are combined. Increase the speed to medium, until mixture is pale in colour.
3. Spread mixture evenly into the slice pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Allow cake to stand for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool.
4. Trim the top and sides from the cake, and cut into 2-3cm cubes. Freeze the cake cubes for about 30 minutes before dipping into the icing.
5. To make the chocolate icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and milk. Stand the bowl over simmering water and stir until icing is of a good consistency.
6. Place coconut in a small bowl. Hold each cake cube on a bamboo skewer or toothpick. Dip into the chocolate icing then toss in coconut, one at a time, to cover. Stand lamingtons on a wire rack until set.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

National Dish



There are few things more Aussie than a meat pie. Unless it’s a meat pie consumed while wearing shorts and thongs after playing a game of cricket on the beach, or in your mate’s quiet street. Or eaten during half-time at the footy and washed down with a beer.

The humble meat pie is an Australian icon – a beacon of hope whether you’re hungry or hungover – wrapped in pastry and smothered in tomato sauce (no ketchup in sight!) Mashed potatoes, peas and gravy sometimes make an appearance. When done properly, it is a beautiful thing.

But sadly, it is not too often that a meat pie is truly done properly. Meat pies are mass-produced and sold frozen, with who knows what inside. There have been horror stories of scary meat pie surprises, if the fat content alone wasn’t enough to turn a girl off them.

It had been a long time since I had a pie. When I was flicking through my copy of Donna Hay’s Modern Classics 1, the perfect golden pastry of her meat pie caught my eye. Reading the recipe, I thought, now this is more like it! Lean steak, cubed and stewed in red wine and stock, thickened later into delicious meaty gravy. I added bacon, but anything goes – mushrooms, vegetables, small cubes of potato. This was my first attempt at a pie from scratch ever and it worked out beautifully.

Meat Pie
Recipe adapted from Donna Hay

Shortcrust Pastry
• 2 cups flour
• 145g cold butter
• 5-7 tablespoons cold water

• Puff Pastry (I used store bought)

Pie Filling
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1 ½ onions, chopped
• 1 kg blade steak, cut into small cubes
• 6 rashers bacon, finely sliced
• 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 4 cups beef stock
• 1 cup red wine
• 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tablespoons flour or cornflour
• ¼ cup water
• sea salt and cracked black pepper
• 1 egg, lightly beaten

1. To make the filling, heat the oil in a saucepan or large frying pan over high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes, until soft. Add bacon and cook until crispy, then add the meat and cook until brown.
2. Add the tomato paste, stock, wine and Worcestershire sauce to the pan and simmer, uncovered for one hour or until the meat is tender.
3. In the meantime, make shortcrust pastry. In a stand mixer (with hook attachment) or food processor, mix flour and butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water, and mix until the dough is smooth and comes away from the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
4. Blend the cornflour/flour and water to a smooth paste. Add it to the beef mixture while it is simmering rapidly on high heat. Stir until the mixture has thickened and returned to a simmer. Add salt and pepper and then set aside to cool.
5. Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F)
6. Roll out the shortcrust pastry on a lightly floured surface to 3mm. Cut out pie bases (1 large and four small, or 6 medium). Blind bake for 20 minutes. Remove baking weights and spoon in the filling. Roll out the puff pasty and cut out lids for each pie.
7. Place on top and press edges of the pastry together. Brush the tops with the egg and make a slit in the tops.
8. Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden. Serve with mashed potatoes, peas and gravy.

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