Saturday, January 29, 2011

Adriano Zumbo, TV and Ooh, Look... it's my birthday

You may have heard that Sydney's star patissier, Adriano Zumbo, has a new television show premiering on SBS on February 10.  I'm in 2 minds about this because I alternately love and hate Mr Zumbo.

How do I love thee, Adriano, let me count the ways:
 - Your cakes are so very photogenic
 - You are quite photogenic, too
 - Your patisserie is tantalisingly close to my house and I like to boast about it

Why I can't stand you (sometimes):
 - You make me spend so much money on something that makes me fat
 - You are so popular that I can no longer get into the store
 - The store is so small and service there is so slow (not really your fault but the staff do wear your name on their t-shirts).

That makes it even stevens, no?  I will be tuning in to the show, don't worry about that!

It also happens to be this blog's THIRD BIRTHDAY *release the streamers!!*

How's that for great timing?  I originally posted on Zumbo cake several times a week, hence the rapid weight gain in the early days, though the weight has recently, disturbingly, plateaued even though I'm no longer eating so much cake. 

Anyhoo, the focus these days is more on food that I like to prepare for dinner and dessert and poor ol' Zumbo has been relegated to my Tumblr blog, together with the cat.  I'm sure they are thrilled to be there.

Let me know if you are happy with this arrangement, though if you aren't I would not count on any more changes any time soon  - and this is a lead-in to the fact that my blog header here has changed. Or didn't you notice???  So (here's more stats) in the three years since this blog started, I have:
 - posted about Zumbo cakes more than 100 times
 - posted about 'other' cakes 12 times
 - presented over 100 recipes
 - started a craft blog (please visit it here, it's very colourful)
 - changed the header once
 - received thousands of wonderful comments from amazing and supportive readers - thank you all!

Finally, here's some eye candy for you, a kind of birthday present, in the absence of actual cake. Hope you like it!

For most of the original Adriano Zumbo cakes I've blogged about, click here.
For more recent Adriano Zumbo cakes, including the latest Summer 2010 range, click here.

This is still the most bizarre creation:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Moderately hot - Horseradish Pesto

There's something about horseradish cream that makes it lift any type of food out of the doldrums.  Any type of savoury food, that is, as I can't imagine horseradish on something sweet (have you tried wasabi ice cream? Ick!)

This recipe is basically an ordinary green pesto with the addition of horseradish cream. You could also use unadulterated horseradish, but being the cream hound that I am, that's what I added, and it's not a bad substitute at all.  The horseradish adds a nice back-of-the tongue heat to the pesto that is very addictive.

Horseradish pesto
makes 1/2 cup

2 cups basil leaves, roughly torn
2 tblsp store-bought horseradish cream
2 tblsp pinenuts, toasted
2 tblsp parmesan, finely grated
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

1.  Place the basil, horseradish cream, pinenuts, cheese, salt, pepper and oil in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.

recipe adapted from donna hay (feb/mar 2010)

Just throw everything into a food processor and whiz it.

Serving suggestion 1: Mix the horseradish pesto through cooked pasta, with some torn rocket or spinach leaves.

Serving suggestion 2: Dollop the horseradish pesto on a smoked trout salad - chunks of hot-smoked ocean trout (or salmon), boiled potatoes and green beans.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Olé! Friday night fish tacos and everybody's happy

Remember this song?

Today's Monday, today's Monday.
Monday is washing day
Tuesday's soup,
Wednesday's roast beef
Thursday's shepherds pie
Friday's fiiiish
Saturday's payday
Sunday's church
Is everybody happy?
You bet your life we are!

Well, how times change...
At my place, Friday night used to be chicken schnitzel night, then it was pizza night, and now it's Taco Night! To fit it in with the song, let's make it Fish taco night. 

Friday's fish tacos
Is everybody happy?
You bet your life we are!!

Come to think of it, any night should be crispy fish taco night!

Fish tacos
serves 2

2-3 firm white fish fillets (like whiting or ling), skin removed
3 tblsp coarse dried breadcrumbs, or panko breadcrumbs
1 tblsp lemon zest
1 egg, beaten
3 tblsp olive oil
4 taco shells
2 roma tomatoes, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 avocado, diced
1 cup Greek yoghurt or sour cream
1/4 tsp paprika
handful of rocket or baby spinach leaves

1.  For the fish: Cut the fish into long fingers.  Mix the breadcrumbs and lemon zest on in a shallow bowl. Dip the fish into the beaten egg and then the crumbs.  Heat the oil in a large frypan and cook on all sides until golden, about 4 minutes.  Season the fish with salt and pepper.
2.  For the avocado dip: Crush the avocado into the yoghurt and mix until combined.  Sprinkle with paprika.
3.  To assemble the tacos: Heat the taco shells for 5 minutes in a 160C oven.  Remove from the oven and fill with the salad leaves, tomato, onion and cooked fish.  Serve the tacos dolloped with some avocado dip.

Ingredients - taco shells, salad-y stuff, white fish fillets, panko crumbs and beaten egg.

These tacos are fresh-tasting and quite light, and a great alternative to traditional beef/chicken/bean tacos.  You could also use soft flour tortillas instead of taco shells.

Crunchy taco shells and crispy fish - yum!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Zounds! A Lemon posset with passionfruit!

Don't you love the word 'posset'?

posset (noun). A posset (also spelled poshote, poshotte) was a British hot drink of milk curdled with wine or ale, often spiced, which was popular from medieval times to the 19th century. The word is mainly used nowadays for a related dessert similar to syllabub.  source: wikipedia

'Posset' has such an olde worlde, medieval ring to it. It ranks up there with "odds bodkins", "the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true", "mead", and "trifle not with me, mi'lady!" as classic words and phrases from the Galahad/Lancelot/Guinevere era.  Bring back jousting, I say!

Well, maybe not jousting and jesters.  Let's just start with a lovely lemon posset.  It's like a smooth, creamy lemon mousse, and it's made with just 3 ingredients.  Perfect to languidly lick from a spoon while waiting for your knight in shining armour to gallop up and liberate you from your life of serf-itude.

Lemon posset with passionfruit
serves 4

300ml thickened cream
90g caster sugar
70ml lemon juice
2 passionfruit, to serve

1.  Put the cream and caster sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally.
2.  Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring, until the mixture thickens.
3.  Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon juice.  Cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes, then strain into serving glasses.  Cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight.
4.  Spoon the pulp from the passionfruit over the possets before serving.
Ingredients - all you need is cream, sugar and lemon juice. 
Simmer the cream and sugar in a saucepan, then add the lemon juice and strain into glasses. 
This recipe serves 4, but I made it for 2 - more for each lucky person!
The possets can be topped with any fruit, like the tangy passionfruit and blueberries here.
Hey nonny nonny, come hither and try this posset. Tis verily splendid!
[And avoid the vessel with the pestle]

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Allegedly healthy potato and green bean salad

Does 'potato' count as part of one's daily requirement of vegetables? 
If yes, then are potato chips, dare I say, healthy?

Probably taking it a bit too far, but it's a thought, isn't it?  For some reason, kipfler (or fingerling) potatoes have a healthier vibe to me.  Maybe because they've been fairly rare on the supermarket shelves before now.  Anyway, the kipfler is a waxy potato, which makes it perfect in salads, because they are less likely to break up when cooked and tossed.  Also, like all potatoes, kipflers are high GI, so are good if you need a quick burst of energy after a bout of exercise (ha!).  Though apart from that, they probably aren't the best choice for weight loss.

And because my star sign is Libra, I need to balance out the doubtful healthfulness of potatoes with the goodness of other veges, like green beans. And then balance that out with some bacon.  Swings and roundabouts, people!

Roast potatos with green beans and bacon
serves 4

6 kipfler potatoes, halved lengthways
4 rashers bacon, chopped
1 tblsp olive oil
salt and black pepper
100g green beans, trimmed and blanched

Mustard dressing:
1/4 cup (60ml) olive oil
1 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 tblsp lemon juice
1 tblsp Dijon mustard

1. For the mustard dressing: place the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepperin a bowl and whisk until well combined.
2. Preheat oven to 180C (350F).  Place potatoes, bacon and oil in a baking dish, sprinkle with salt and toss to coat.  Roast for 40 minutes., turning occasionally, or until crisp and golden.
3. Serve the roasted potatoes with the green beans and drizzled with mustard dressing.

recipe adapted from donna hay (dec/jan 2011)

Ingredients, including kipfler potatoes (with pot/potato scrubber), bacon, green beans and prepared mustard dressing.  The original recipe uses speck (cured ham) instead of bacon.
This salad makes a lovely, light lunch or dinner. 
Health formula: Bacon + potato =  green beans

Friday, January 14, 2011

New Year, Sparkling Jellies, of course

This is what we had to ring in the new year. 

Normally, it would be a drop of something sparkling in a glass, but this year, I decided to get with the jelllies again and try incorporating bubbles into a dessert. 

The recipe calls for a pink sparkling wine, like Moscato, and its sweet (alchoholic) effervescence makes the jelly that little bit more grown up.  If you don't want it to be so *hic* grown-up, just substitute some of the wine with water to make up the amount of liquid.

And how was new year's eve?  Well, it was humid and warm, and after strolling down the road to view the spectacular Sydney fireworks, we came home, got tipsy on sparkling jelly with raspberries and watched dvds of the 'IT Crowd'.  A fine night!

Sparkling Jellies
serves 8

2 1/2  tsp gelatine powder
1/4 cup (60ml) water
750ml  pink sparkling wine, such as Moscato
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar, to taste

1.  Place the gelatine and water in a cup and stir to combine.  Set aside for 5 minutes or until the gelatine is absorbed.
2.  Place the wine and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Add the gelatine  and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until the gelatine is dissolved.  Set aside to cool.
3.  Divide the mixture between 4 glasses and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight until set.  Serve with berries, sorbet or ice cream.

recipe adapted from donna hay (dec/jan 2011)

The wine used was Killawarra Dusk, a strawberry-infused sparkling wine.  Actually, it was rather grim when drunk on its own, and adding sugar to it in this jelly was the only way to make it palatable. 
These jellies were served with fresh raspberries.
The jelly has a lovely tingling effect on the tongue due to the bubbles in the wine.
Perfect for that sparkling occasion!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Best ever Chicken Liver Pate

Get ready for a taste sensation.
Or, here's a tip: if you're able to bottle and market this, you could make a million
You heard it here first...

Most people either love or hate chicken or duck liver.  I love it, though when growing up, liver in our household was usually braised in an Asian-style soy sauce together with giblets.  Mmm, liver and giblets...
Fast-forward to my now more 'sophisticated' tastes, and chicken liver pate is what gets me excited.  This recipe by Belinda Jeffery is what her mother made for an after-school snack. Why didn't my mum ever make this?  Dunno, though the liver and giblets really makes me misty-eyed...

Anyway, back to this recipe - it's so brilliant. The caramelised onion and bacon elevate the chicken liver out of the ordinary, and instead of brandy, I used Grand Marnier, and it adds a subtle sweetness to the pate that is lip-smackingly good.  When served this pate on New Year's day, my guests asked why I didn't sell it, as I'd make the proverbial million.  Well, I don't really fancy spending my days sieving pate, but the thought is true - this pate is that good.     

Chicken Liver Pate
makes approx 3 cups

500g chicken livers, trimmed, sinew removed
3/4 cup (185ml) milk
1/2 cup (125ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 brown onions, chopped
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 bacon rashers, rind removed, chopped
1 tblsp thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
2 tblsp brandy or Grand Marniner
1 1/2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
170g chilled cultured unsalted butter, chopped, plus 80g melted, cooled

1.  Place chicken livers in bowl, cover with milk and refrigerate while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
2.  Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic and bacon, and cook, stirring, for 12 minutes until the onion caramelises.  Mix in thyme, then add brandy (or Grand Marnier) and 1 tablespoon of water, stirring to deglaze the pan.  Transfer to a bowl.
3.  Wipe pan clean and return to high heat with remaining oil.  Drain chicken livers and pat dry with paper towel, then cook for 2-3 minutes each side until browned and slightly crusty but still pink inside.  Add to the bowl with the onion mixture and season well with salt and pepper.
4.  Return pan to heat, splash with vinegar to deglaze the pan again.  Then scrape the juices into the bowl with the livers.  Puree mixture very finely in blender or food processor with the chilled, chopped butter.  For an extra-silky texture use a spatula or spoon to force the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl.
5.  Smooth the pate into four 180ml ceramic pots or a 750ml dish.  Pour a thin film of melted butter on top to seal, then top with a thyme sprig.  Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.  Serve with crusty bread.

recipe adapted from delicious (March 2010)

Ingredients, including Grand Marnier, milk for soaking the chicken livers, bacon, onion, garlic, thyme, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Lurpak-brand butter is cultured and unsalted.

The chopped onions and garlic prior to cooking. 
The pate does not take long to make, but I did spend 45 minutes sieving it to produce a silken smooth result (and yes, it was worth doing!)

Take the pate out of the fridge a few minutes before you want to serve it; the butter seal will soften a bit, making it easier to spoon out.

Serve the pate with toast points or slices of baguette. I found that fresh, soft bread complemented this rich, smooth, gorgeous pate the best.
Tabitha cat has developed a habit of watching while I cook. And also a habit of investigating the end result. Fortunately, the pate was covered with a hygenic layer of plastic wrap before she found them.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Prawn linguine with minty limey peas

Pasta - check. Prawns - check. Peas - check.
Mint and lime - wha???

I'll admit I didn't think of this unusual combination of flavours (in a pasta).  I think it's from the taste recipe site, but since I hurriedly wrote it down on a scrap of paper, I didn't take time to note down the proper reference.  Never mind, the flavours are indeed most tasty, and the mint and lime enhance rather than overwhelm the salty prawns and fresh, mild peas. 
This will be a regular recipe in my prawn-and-pasta-obsessed kitchen, oh yes.

Linguine with prawns, peas and a hint of the tropics
serves 2

250g dried linguine or other long pasta
1/4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, sliced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
300g green prawns, peeled and deveined
150g shelled peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped


1.  Cook pasta in a large saucepan of lightly salted, boiling water until just before 'al dente'.  Add the peas and continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Drain the pasta and peas and return to the pan to keep warm.
2.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large frying pan, add garlic and lime zest and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes until the garlic is soft but not browned.
3.  Add prawns and season with salt and pepper, increase the heat and fry for 3-4 minutes until the prawns are just cooked.  Add the lime juice and mint, and mix to combine.
4.  Stir the prawn mixture into the pasta and peas . Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

Recipe adapted from

Ingredients, including (frozen) peas, green prawns, garlic, mint, lime, linguine
The lime zest is gently heated with the garlic, and it imparts a lovely fragrance to the sauce.
The linguine is cooked first, then the peas are added to the water later.
Throw in the peas and pasta...

The lovely spirals of pasta are wrapped around the plump prawns and glistening peas