Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Hello Ottolenghi Cookie: White Chocolate and Cranberry Biscuits

This was the first recipe I made from Ottolenghi the Cookbook and although these biscuits are nothing spectacular to look at, their texture and flavour are incomparable.  They remind me of these salted white chocolate oatmeal cookies because the white chocolate turns crisp, lacy and caramelly when baked. They are amazingly good.

And these are definitely 'biscuits' as opposed to 'cookies'.  For a more substantial white choc/cranberry cookie, please try these.

White chocolate and cranberry biscuits
makes 25-30 biscuits

90g plain flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla essence
110g soft brown sugar
25g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
80g whole rolled oats
60g white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate
75g dried cranberries

1. Preheat the oven to 170 deg Celsius. Line a baking tray or two with baking paper.
2. Sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda and set aside.
3. Put the butter, vanilla and sugars in a large mixing bowl and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.
4. Gradually add the egg, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding more.
5. Mix in the flour mixture and the oats, then the chocolate and the cranberries. Do not overmix: stop mixing when the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
6. Roll a teaspoon of the dough into a ball (about the size of a walnut). Put the balls onto the prepared trays and flatten the balls lightly. Leave about 5cm between them for spreading.
7. Place in the oven and bake for about 10 minutes, until they are light brown and crisp. Leave to cool on the tray before removing to a wire rack.
Store the biscuits in an airtight container for up to a week.

Recipe is from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

Ingredients, including the all-important white chocolate and dried cranberries.

The biscuits before and after baking

They will last a week in a locked, airtight container.
Or 5 minutes on a carelessly unguarded plate.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rocks Aroma Festival 2010 feat Marilyn Monroe

That should be Coffee, Tea, or meh.

I shouldn’t be too harsh about the event because, overall, it was fun, well-attended, and had a lot of stalls selling coffee, tea, chai, food and cupcakes. Lots of cupcakes. It was just very similar to last year’s festival (see what I did here), with the now-famous coffee picture providing the main point of difference.

So here are some pictures of what I did – arrived earlyish to avoid the crowds (and take advantage of the sunny morning), drank a coffee, ate some lunch, steered clear of camel poo, and gawped at the coffee picture.

Above: I had a long black coffee from Vella Nero (good service despite a 15 min wait for the coffee because the machines were down); lots of biscuit and cake stalls; need to start them young with the caffeine habit

Above: In the camel precinct - "coffee festival? what coffee festival?" - these guys were more interested in the sports pages; lunch was from the Dim Sum Station (average dumplings and awful duck bun); guy in a fez watching the Turkish entertainment; fabulous baklava, so moist yet not too sweet (but I've forgotten the name of the company!)

And onto the coffee picture - this year, it was of Marilyn Monroe.

There was a crowd eager for the final cups to be placed:

Ta-Dah! Well done!

Some like it hot.

The Rocks Aroma Festival was held on Sunday 25th July 2010 in Sydney.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

More Ottolenghi love: Buttered Prawns with Tomatoes and Olives

The infatuation with Ottolenghi continues, with this gorgeously easy dish.

This is a perfect after-work dish because it is so quick to whip up.  I am fortunate to be able to buy peeled green prawns from the supermarket, and the way the prawns are cooked in butter is the key to the tastiness of the dish.  That and the chilli flakes and garlic and olives, too.

The arak in the recipe is a Middle Eastern liquor with an aniseed flavour.  They say that Pernod could also be used, but I had neither and used white wine instead. 
Summary:  I've made these buttered prawns 3 times in as many weeks and it is always fabulous!

Buttered Prawns with Tomatoes and Olives
serves 2 as a main or 4 as a starter

4 plum tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, cut into 4-6 wedges
16 medium-large green (raw) prawns, peeled and deveined
50g unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
50g Kalamata olives, pips removed, sliced
20ml arak, Pernod or white wine
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tblsp parsley, finely chopped

1.  Place a large frying pan over high heat.  When hot, add 1 tablespoon of butter and the prawns, and saute for 2 minutes, shaking the pan, until the prawns become opaque but are not yet cooked.
2.  Add the tomatoes, chilli and olives to the pan.  Cook for another 2 minutes.  The prawns should be just cooked.
3.  Add the arak or white wine, and simmer for 1 minute.  Add the remaining butter, garlic and parsley.  Stir until the butter is incorporated.  The sauce will still be a bit runny.
4.  Serve immediately with bread to mop up the delicious sauce.

Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

Ingredients; the tomatoes are soaked in boiling water for 30 seconds to help remove the skins; whack a pat of butter into the pan - makes the sauce smoother, richer, better...

This is a great tapas-style dish that tastes incredible and is so easy to make.
I've also served it with sweet potato fries (or something crunchy) to give some 'texture' to the meal.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ginger pudding with ginger caramel sauce

I am reading The Fortune Cookie Chronicles at the moment, and author, Jennifer 8. Lee, writes about growing up in a Chinese-American household where desserts are a fairly sorry affair.  In fact, fancy baked goods are not much of a feature of Chinese cuisine at all, and most homes in China do not even have an oven. 

In having a Chinese-Australian background, I can relate to the dessert deficiency, as I'd never eaten any type of pudding (including Christmas!) until I was in my late teens.  So this is my first-ever attempt at making a proper pudding.  The recipe is from Terry Durack in Good Weekend magazine, though I've substituted my own caramel sauce, with ginger added.

Oh, and I know that it's called a steamed ginger pudding, but because I made it in a large baking dish, I didn't actually 'steam' it (by putting the dish in a baking pan of hot water).

Steamed ginger pudding with ginger caramel sauce
serves 4

2 tsp butter, for greasing
4 tsp golden syrup
125g butter, diced
125g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
125g self-raising flour, sifted
60ml milk
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tblsp preserved or crystallised ginger, finely diced

60g butter
85g brown sugar
2 tblsp preserved or crystallised ginger, finely diced
125ml (1/2 cup) cream

1.  Heat oven to 180C.  Lightly butter a 600ml ovenproof dish and place the golden syrup in the bottom.  Or you could use smaller (4 x 150ml) dishes.
2.  Beat the butter and sugar until creamy.
3.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.
4.  Fold in the sifted flour and milk alternately, to make a smooth batter. If the batter is very stiff, add a bit more milk.
5.  Fold in the ground ginger, cinnamon and crystallised ginger.
6.  Spoon the mixture into the prepared dish and cover tightly with a sheet of buttered foil.  Bake for 40 minutes, or until the pudding springs back to the touch.  If using smaller dishes, put the dishes in a baking tray half-filled with boiling water before baking (hence 'steaming' them).
7.  To make the sauce, melt the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan with the ginger and simmer for 3 minutes.  Then pour in the cream and simmer for another 3 minutes.
8.  To serve, pour the sauce over a spoonful of pudding on a plate.  Serve with cream or ice cream.

Recipe adapted from Good Weekend (26th June 2010)

From top: pudding before baking; making the caramel sauce; pudding and sauce ready to be served.  The pudding turned out to be surprisingly light, fluffy and spongey.

Serve the pudding warm with whipped cream and crystallised ginger sprinkled on top.
This was a good pudding - I am quite annoyed at missing out all those years ago.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Product review and new love: McCain and Ottolenghi Sweet Potato

I have a new love.  It's Ottolenghi, or Ottolenghi The Cookbook, to be precise.

Together with their new book, Plenty, the brains behind the Ottolenghi restaurants in the UK have come up with a foolproof and undeniable way for us to eat more vegetables.  The books are so colourful, and the recipes look so fresh, uncomplicated and downright unresistable that I challenge anyone not be be tempted.

The opportunity to make something from the book came about when I was asked to try the new McCain Sweet Potato SuperFries*.  I must say, the fries are pretty good on their own, and a nice alternative to normal spud chips.  What I did was adapt this Ottolenghi recipe for Sweet Potato with Cashews and Honey, replacing the sweet potato pieces with the crinkle-cut fries (and honey for maple syrup, and cashews for pecans).  It's a lovely way to devour the fries - popping the sweet potato fries into the honey vinegar dressing with a scattering of cashews and sultanas is ambrosial. 

Sweet Potato Chips with Cashews and Honey
serves 4 as a side dish

400g sweet potato fries (or 400g sweet potato, cut into 2cm chunks)
20g cashews or pecans, roughly chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
15g sultanas
salt and pepper

2 tblsp olive oil
1 tblsp honey or maple syrup
1 tblsp sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tblsp lemon juice
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F.  Roast the sweet potato fries in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until they are tender.  If using sweet potato pieces, coat the potatoes in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper before baking.  Keep an eye on the fries to ensure they don't burn or get too brown.
2.  Make the dressing by whisking the dressing ingredients together in a bowl.  Season with salt and pepper if necessary.
3.  When the potatoes are ready, transfer them to a large bowl while still hot, and mix in the chilli flakes, cashews and sultanas, and stir to combine.
4.  Pour over the dressing and stir gently.  Sprinkle over the spring onions before serving.

Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook

The sweet potato fries are good as is, or add some sultanas and greenery for even more eating pleasure.  I used the crinkle cut chips in this recipe although the thin cut fries would also be good.

The sweet potato chips absorb the honey dressing when they are still hot.  The dish can be served warm, or at room temperature.

*  Thanks to Sophie at Fleishman Hillard for providing the sample of McCain Sweet Potato SuperFries.  More information on the fries is available at the McCain website.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Aubergine....! Honey and Harissa glazed Eggplant

Tell me more.
When I cook, I weep.

Yes, we love the Perfect Italiano man, but no more so than we he knits a little coat for his dog, Bob.

There is no knitting pattern here, just a fabulous recipe using honey, harissa and eggplant (or say 'Aubergine' in a soulful voice).  I've made this dish several times now, and each time, I can't get over how mouthwatering the flavours are, how silky the eggplant is, and how the sweetness of the honey melds so well with the slight spicy hit of harissa. 
This one's definitely a keeper, just like Signor Perfect Italiano (and Bob the dog.)

Honey and Harissa Glazed Eggplant
serves 3-4 as a side dish

750g eggplant (about 2 medium-large), peeled
50ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for frying
3 small cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp harissa paste
1/4 cup (60 ml) honey
2 tsp tomato paste
2 tblsp lemon juice
1  tsp sea salt

1.  Preheat oven to 200C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.
2.  Halve each eggplant crosswise then slice each half into 6-8 wedges.  Place the wedges into the baking tray and drizzle with 50ml of olive oil. Coat the wedges thoroughly in oil, then spread them out in a single layer. Roast the wedges in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until they are deep golden, turning them halfway through the cooking time.
3.  Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over low heat. Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Then stir in the cumin, cinnamon, harissa, honey, tomato paste, lemon juice and salt.  Cook until the mixture starts to boil, then turn off the heat.
4.  Remove the eggplant from the oven and carefully place into the honey mixture.  Cook in a single layer for 8 minutes, turning once.  Be careful, as the honey may start to burn.
5.  When the eggplant is cooked, season to taste with extra lemon juice and salt, if needed.  Then put them into a shallow serving dish, and spoon over any remaining honey glaze.  The eggplant can be served warm or at room temperature.  Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for a day or so; just reheat in the microwave for 40 seconds (it tastes even better then).

Recipe adapted from delicious (June 2010)

Ingredients, including eggplant, honey, cumin, cinnamon, ginger, garlic and harissa.

The eggplant is cooked twice, firstly in the oven, then in the sticky, sweet and spicy honey and harissa glaze.

The eggplants can be left unpeeled, but the texture is much better when they are peeled, I think.

Velvety aubergine...

Sydney Good Food and Wine Show 2010 Winners

The winners of the Good Food and Wine Show Giveaway have been drawn.

Click here to see who the lucky ones are.

Note: Winners, could you email me your details before Wednesday 14th July.  If I don't hear from you by then, I will have to redraw and give the tickets to other winners.
And thanks to the Reputation Group for the tickets.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Giggity giugiulena

The battle of the magazines continues...

Don't worry, it's not a real battle, just an imaginary conflict in my mind, where one magazine leads its colourful pages to victory against the marauding monthly food publications.  The prize? Just kudos for the title of 'title of the month' according to Ooh, Look...

That's just a stream of consciousness.  What I really wanted to tell you was that Gourmet Traveller has a new special edition out.  Called 'The Italian Cookbook', it's full of gorgeous Italian recipes from GT magazine and website. 

I flicked through the magazine while waiting to pay for it, and this recipe for sesame seed brittle looked like it was easy enough to make.  I just had to stop by the Italian deli to pick up a tub of untoasted sesame seeds, and it was halfway there.  The brittle is a non-too-sweet bite to have for afternoon tea or petits fours. Tip: A hot drink will also help dislodge the sticky sesame bits from your teeth.

Sesame seed brittle (Cubbaita di giugiulena)
makes about 25 pieces

225g (1½ cups) sesame seeds
75 gm (1/3 cup) sugar
250 ml (1 cup) honey
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

1.  Combine ingredients in a large heavy-based saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally, over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 160C on a sugar thermometer.
2.  Line a 20cm-square cake pan with baking paper. Pour mixture into pan and smooth top.
3.  Allow to cool slightly, then loosen edges from pan and, using a sharp knife, cut into diamonds. Do this while the brittle is still fairly soft, as it will harden as it cools.  Place on baking paper to cool completely.
Brittle will keep in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Recipe adapted from Gourmet Traveller

Ingredients, including fab magazine and tub of sesame seeds; heating the sesame to 160C; cooling in the tin; wooden spoon coated with sesame seeds (use boiling water to soak the spoon, thermometer and pan to remove the hardened honey and sugar).

Cut the brittle into diamond shapes while it is still soft

Serve with espresso or hot tea

 Sesame seed brittle
aka Cubbaita di giugiulena
Reminder:  The Good Food and Wine Show (Sydney) giveaway is still on.  You have until Sunday to get your entries in.  Just say the magic words and enter here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Vegetarian ? At least I'm trying with this pasta!

When I think about it, I do eat quite a bit of meat every day.  So I’ll often have a big salad for lunch (‘big salad’ – echoes of Elaine from Seinfeld, haha) in preparation of a carnivorous night-time meal. And I’m talking about chicken as well as beef or lamb.

So this is a concerted effort to eat a little less meat once in a while, though still having a satisfying main meal. I must say, too, that I still have to have some carbohydrates – that’s what really fills you up.

The lentils in this spaghetti sauce also give the dish some heft, and using a bought pasta sauce gives it even more flavour. I will admit that I bought this particular sauce because I liked the shape of the jar (it’s the new Bertolli brand tomato pasta sauce with parmesan).

Spaghetti with Lentils and Fetta
serves 2

2 tblsp olive oil
1 zucchini, finely sliced
1 stick celery, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp ground cumin
200g tomato pasta sauce
400g can brown lentils
200g spaghetti
70g fetta cheese, crumbled

1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the zucchini and celery and cook, stirring, over low heat for 5 minutes until softened.
2. Add the garlic, cumin, tomato pasta sauce and 1/2 cup water. Bring to the boil and season with salt and black pepper. Turn the heat to low, simmer for 10 minutes, add the lentils and cook for a further 5 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in boiling, salted water according to packet instructions.
4. Drain the pasta, put into bowls and top with the sauce. Sprinkle with fetta and serve.

Ingredients, including zucchini, celery, pasta sauce in a pretty jar, lentils and cumin

Notice my improved knife skills in the finely diced celery.

There you have it, a very tasty vegetarian dish.

And the snowy fetta looks brilliant against the lush lentil and tomato sauce.

Important Reminder: Don't forget to enter my CONTEST to win a double pass to the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show.  It's a fantastic prize!
Just click here to enter.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sydney Good Food and Wine Show 2010 Giveaway

So what's all this?
The Good Food and Wine Show (GFWS) is on in Sydney from 16-18th July 2010!

My visit to the GFWS last year was a raging success.  So much so that I am eagerly awaiting this year's production, and that's coming from someone who hates crowds as a rule.  And this is despite the fact that the popular Show can get quite crowded, and some stamina is required.

So here are some pointers for surviving and enjoying the GFWS.

1. Be prepared.  Before you go, check out the show's website for list of exhibitors and presentations and see if there are any that you must visit.
2. Book yourself into one of the sessions in the Celebrity Chef Theatre.  We saw Matt Moran last year and he put on an entertaining show and cooked some wonderful dishes as well.
3. Decide if you want to attend a class (extra cost). They have classes in coffee skills and cupcake-making this year.  There's also a cooking school to learn how to cook 'proper' food.  And a Chocolate masterclass.
 4. Do you want to eat at the show, or just subsist on the free samples? The onsite restaurant has dishes cooked by various well-known chefs and it's kind of like Taste of Sydney so you can buy as many dishes as you like. 
5.  Are you a drinker?  Not sure if there'll be an RBT van outside, but if you're not driving, then the wine masterclasses and tastings should be on your agenda.  There was a large representation of wine producers last year.
6.  From a practical point of view, make sure you wear comfortable shoes and clothing. There's lots of walking and shoving involved.  Pointy elbows an advantage.
7.  If you're easily overwhelmed by all that food and all those freebies, samples and special offers, you need to bring a trolley with you (one of those cloth jobs with wheels, not a supermarket trolley).  They have them on sale at the Show as well, and last year, it was the best $30 we spent.
8.  Personally, I like to take a methodical approach when visiting shows like this. Start at the bottom left hand corner of the hall, go up the first aisle, turn right, then down the next aisle, left into the next aisle, etc.  It means less chance of missing out on anything.  But be prepared to ignore this plan if you see something over there with lots of people around it (must mean it's something good/free).
9.  If you buy lots of stuff, remember that you still have to get it all home, maybe on public transport.
10. Enter my giveaway for a free double pass to the Show.


That's right, thanks to the folks at the GFWS you could win one of three double passes to the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show

How do you geddit???
Just leave a comment on this post with the magic words 'Coriander is Evil'
Entries close midnight, Sunday 11th July 2010.

Good luck!

--------------- Conditions of GFWS 2010 Giveaway ---------------------
1. Entry is by leaving a comment that includes the magic words. Enter as many times as you like (separate comment per entry). 
2. If you do not leave contact details on your entry, you can email your details to me using the Contact tab at the top of this page.
3. Entries close midnight, Sunday 11th July 2010.  Winners are drawn randomly. You can only win once.
4. Prize is for entry only to the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show, 16-18th July 2010. Prizes will be sent by Australia Post mail to the winners.

  ------------------------------------ The Winners are ----------------------------------

The GFWS competition is now closed, and thanks to, the winners are:

Kat Lopez

Ladies, I don't have your email addresses, so could you send me your mailing address ASAP, so that I can send out the double passes to you before the Show starts on Friday.  Congratulations! 

oohlookbel2000 [at] gmail [dot] com

Note: Winners, could you email me your details before Wednesday 14th July. If I don't hear from you by then, I will have to redraw and give the tickets to other winners.