Friday, February 26, 2010

An intelligent salad of prosciutto and blue cheese

Don’t hate me because I make so many salads.

In fact, I don’t eat salad that often, it’s just that they are so picturesque that I’m writing about them here. Of course, the other reason for a colourful salad is that
  i) they are easy to throw together
  ii) you can have a modicum of prosciutto and blue cheese because...
  iii) the prosciutto and blue cheese are offset by the healthfulness of the iron-packed spinach leaves

Hence, Σ(3 x prosciutto, blue cheese) = 1 x handful of spinach leaves

See, salads make you brainier, too.

Prosciutto and Blue Cheese Salad
Serves 2

80g rocket or other salad leaves
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 slices prosciutto
100g blue cheese, crumbled

¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar

1. Make the dressing by whisking the dressing ingredients together in a bowl.
2. Place the salad leaves and tomatoes in another bowl. Pour over the dressing and gently toss to combine.
3. Tear over the prosciutto and add the blue cheese. Serve immediately.

Look at the large bowl of leaves, and the beautifully carved prosciutto
Throw it all together and eat. And wait for your IQ to soar.
PS: There are also a couple of pieces of smoked chicken in the above salad

Monday, February 22, 2010

Lychee Panna cotta with Raspberry Jelly

I'm not really into complicated recipes, the ones that you try once and never make again.  Therefore, the dishes I make on this blog are usually just your average daily 'what's for dinner' type that are not too hard to whip up and are hopefully going into the 'I must remember to make this again' pile.

Of course, the internet and other food blogs are a constant, invaluable source of recipes and ideas.  This lychee panna cotta dessert was first inspired by Trissalicious's sublime-looking Lychee Perfection.  Then I found another version at Dessert First that was topped with ruby red pomegranate.  The list goes on...

So this is my La Vie en Rose-y version, with raspberry jelly providing further colour and flavour.

Lychee Panna cotta with Raspberry Jelly
serves 6

1 can (approx 565g / 20oz) lychees in syrup
2 tsp powdered gelatine
1 cup thickened cream
1 cup whole milk
2 tblsp sugar
1 packet raspberry jelly crystals

1.  Set aside 6 whole lychees.  Put the remaining lychees and syrup into a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth.  Strain the liquid and pulp into a sieve until you get 1 cup of clear liquid.
2.  Place 3 tablespoons of cold water into a small bowl. Sprinkle over the gelatine.  Set aside.
3.  Combine the lychee liquid, cream, milk and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Heat on medium, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved and it just comes to the boil.
4.  Remove the lychee mixture from the heat and add the gelatine.  Stir until the gelatine is fully melted and combined. 
5.  Remove from heat and cool for about 10 minutes.
6.  Pour mixture evenly into 6x1-cup glasses.
7.  Refrigerate until set, about 2-3 hours.
8.  Make up the jelly crystals according to packet instructions.  Let the jelly cool slightly before pouring over the set lychee panna cottas.  Make sure the jelly is cool, otherwise it may melt the panna cotta.
9.  Refrigerate until the jelly is set, another 2 hours.  Top with reserved lychee pieces before serving.

Recipe adapted from Dessert First
Ingredients.  This was my first attempt at using gelatine, so the powdered version was easiest.

The deep red of raspberry jelly really offsets the creamy panna cotta.
...I will be making this dessert again...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Friday Night Pizza - Moroccan Lamb PLUS a Giveaway

There’s nothing better at the end of a long week than… pizza!

And there’s nothing better than pizza that you make yourself. I don’t know about you, but where I live, there are no edible takeaway pizza places nearby (though Rosso Pomodoro is in the next suburb, it’s a bit too far to walk). And as for a home-delivered thing from a pizza chain… *shiver!*

This pizza is good because it does not contain cheese (low-fat) and can be made using a gluten-free pizza base. I used a bought pizza base that I found at the supermarket, and I can highly recommend it – the Anthony’s Fine Bread large pizza base was pillowy, soft and thick and when cooked, it is the perfect crispy base for the meaty topping.

Oh, and what's the Giveaway?  Glance at the recipe and photos first... it's at the end of the page...

Moroccan Lamb Pizza
Serves 2

4 lamb and rosemary sausages (or 180g lamb mince)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp paprika
4 cherry or baby roma tomatoes, halved
1 tblsp pine nuts
26cm pizza base

Tzatziki dressing
½ cup bought tzatziki
½ tsp mint, chopped
1 tblsp lemon juice

1. Preheat oven to 210 deg C.
2. Remove the casings from the lamb sausages and discard. Mix together the lamb sausage meat (or mince) with the garlic, onion, cumin and paprika, and season with salt and pepper.
3 Place the pizza base on a pizza or baking tray and spread the lamb mixture over it. Place tomato halves on the lamb, then scatter with pine nuts.
4. Place pizza in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes until the lamb is cooked through and the tomatoes are soft. Remove from oven.
5. To make the dressing, mix the tzatziki, mint and lemon juice in a bowl.
6. Serve pizza slices with tzatziki dressing on the side.

Quick to make and quick to cook

Nothing better than pizza in front of the TV on Friday night

Ah, yes, the Giveaway: I have two (2) tickets to the Taste of Sydney food event to give away to one lucky person. 
The tickets are:
 - for standard entry only (worth up to $30 each)
 - valid for entry to sessions on Thursday 11th March 2010 (5.30 - 9.30pm) OR Friday 12th March 2010 (12-4pm OR 5.30-9.30pm)
 - Taste of Sydney is held in Centennial Park, Sydney.  It's a great chance to taste food from some of Sydney's best restaurants. Have a look at the offerings from last year.

To enter, leave a comment on this post with the secret phrase "I want to win". 
Competition closes midnight 28th February 2010. Winner will be picked randomly
Even if you don't want to enter, please leave a comment complimenting the lamb pizza. Thanks!


Update: 1st March 2010

 Thanks to all who entered the Taste of Sydney Giveaway.

 The winner of the 2 entry passes is.......... missklicious!
 CongratulationsI will email you to get your details.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

March into Merivale 2010 - Launch Party

The queue into the launch party for March into Merivale

Yes, it was crowded and hot, but the launch of Merivale Group's 'March into Merivale' restaurant event was filled with free food and drink, as well as keen punters.  It was held yesterday in the Ivy complex in George Street, Sydney, where some of Merivale's restaurants are located.

Along with other foodbloggers, I was fortunate enough to score an invite into the launch before the public were allowed in (thanks to Renee from Merivale for looking after us beforehand).  We saw the event being set up and got to admire the Ivy ballroom before the hordes descended.

Lovely Ivy ballroom with high ceiling and chandeliers - and waiters with welcome drinks.

Like the previous Merivale launch, it was a chaotic event that the chefs, kitchen staff and attendants handled with aplomb.  It must be difficult to cater for so many people (1000?) at the best of times, but to do it in pretty much full view of them takes a lot of preparation and stamina.

March into Merivale showcases the restaurant chefs and their food, so here are some of the restaurans and canapes that were on offer.  

Dan Hong, chef of Lotus restaurant, with plates of pork 'banh mi' croutons and prawn skewers crusted with Tasty Toobs. 

Nobuyuki Ura, head chef of sushi e, was hard at work preparing Establishment sushi rolls, while the roast duck with kosho yuzu sauce was popular.

Teppanyaki restaurant's food included Kurobata pork with green apple on witlof, and Tasmanian salmon with ponzu and dried miso.  PS: That's @jenius in the photo, helping herself...

At 6pm, the doors opened and the crowd flooded in - hands grabbing at passing drinks, fingers fingering the finger food.  If the number of rsvps is an indicator of a good party, then this was a raging success.

Other food included a gorgeous pressed rockmelon and Serrano jamon skewer from est. They also had grilled scallop with pork crackle (on a spoon) and chicken liver parfait.

Mad Cow offered Rangers Valley flank steak with chimichurri sauce, and heirloom tomato with mozzarella.  I had something similar during the Meatlovers' Masterclass with Mad Cow last year.
Bistro cbd had goat's cheese tartlets, while Ash St Cellar had cups of fishy bouillabaisse.

Drinks on offer included beer, wine, and a Campari grapefruit juice cocktail.

That's all I saw before being overwhelmed by the crowd.  I was suitably disappointed that the chefs did not wear their superhero outfits on the night, but I suppose you can't have everything.  The food didn't disappoint, though, so a visit to the aforementioned restaurants must be on the cards.

Details of the March into Merivale menus and events can be found on their website here.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine’s Day at Adriano Zumbo

What is Valentine’s Day good for?

1. About 1 week after Christmas, department stores and gift shops are festooned with pink and red and glittery hearts – not good
2. It is the busiest day of the year for florists. The cost of flower deliveries skyrockets, as does the cost of (imported) red roses – not good
3. The classifieds publish love messages to ‘my cute Honeybunny’ from ‘your big Fluffywuffy’ – good for a laugh but not much else
4. In the week leading up to February 14th, Adriano Zumbo Patissier presents heart-shaped macarons and Valentines cakes – finally, a WIN!

The macarons in the store are a riot of colour, and beautifully packaged, to boot.

Some of the flavours I bought – they are pastel-y and subtle.

The Valentines cake is an extravaganza of strawberry jelly and hazelnut.
Have a sweet day, everyone!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For Winter or Summer: Warm Vegetable Salad

The weather lately has been all over the place - hot and humid one day, rainy and windy the next.  Sounds like the slogan for a dodgy tourist resort.  Nonetheless, it is playing havoc with my meal plans because my mind says summer, but my body says 'No.... it's getting dark earlier, winter must be around the corner!'.  Yes, I'm a glass-half-empty type of person...

To prepare for the inevitable, here is a salad of roasted vegetables as a grab at summer's fading sparkle.

Warm Roast Vegetable Salad
serves 2

2 small sweet potatoes (or 1 large one), about 200g, chopped into 2cm chunks
1 red onion, cut into quarters
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tblsp olive oil
a few drops of sesame oil (optional)
80g salad leaves, eg. rocket and baby spinach
100g creamy blue cheese
30g cashews or roasted hazelnuts

¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
1 tblsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper, to season

1.  Place the sweet potato chunks and red onion into a baking tin.  Drizzle with olive oil and garlic and mix to coat. Sprinkle the sweet potato with a few drops of sesame oil if you like (I like).
2.  Bake in a preheated 180 deg C oven for 40 minutes, until the potato is soft and golden.
3.  Meanwhile, combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk together. 
4.  To serve, place some salad leaves in a bowl, top with the sweet potato and onion, drizzle with the dressing and top with pieces of blue cheese and cashews. 

After chopping the vegetables, just coat them in olive oil and garlic, then roast in the oven. Love how the sweet potato intensifies in colour after baking.

Serve with blue cheese and cashews. 
This is a simple but substantial salad, especially if you add a few bits of crispy bacon as well (not shown here, but I have been known to include the crispy, delicious bacon... mmm, bacon...)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hello Cookie: Citrus Shortbread Hearts

These cookies are inspired by my friend Zdenka, from whom I received a lovely box of iced shortbread cookies just before Christmas last year.  Due to a misunderstanding about our planned lunch ('where are you, I'm waiting!', 'oh, I thought you couldn't make it!', 'I left you a message!', 'I didn't get it! I'll come now but can't stay!'), we didn't get the chance to sit and chat, but Zdenka did give me the beautifully packaged box of cookies.  A recipe soon followed (via email) and I promised I'd make some.

Fast-forward two months later, and here they are... I've changed the recipe slightly have a citrus flavour, rather than the original cinnamon scent, but they are still a delicious morsel to have with a cup of tea.  With your sweetheart. Or anyone else fortunate enough to share your delightful company...

Citrus Shortbread Hearts
makes about 40

250g butter, cubed, at room temperature
1 ½ cups pure icing sugar
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 lime
3 ¼ cups plain flour
¼ cup water

¾ cup pure icing sugar
1 ½ tblsp lemon juice
2-3 drops pink food colouring

1.  Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
2.  Beat the butter and icing sugar until light in colour and fluffy in texture.
3.  Gradually beat in the zest and flour, until well incorporated.
4.  The mixture will be a bit grainy at this stage, so add the water and mix well to form a dough.
5.  Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a minute, until smooth.
6.  Roll the dough to 1cm (½ inch) thickness and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (I mostly used a 4cm heart).  I also put the dough in the refrigerator to firm up a bit, as it was a warm day and it is a soft dough.
7.  Place shapes on a lined baking tray, 2cm apart, and bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden.
8.  Remove to cool on a wire rack.  When completely cool, coat with icing and leave to set.
9.  For the icing, sift the icing sugar into a bowl, and add the lemon juice and colouring.  Stir until it's all combined.  To make the icing more spreadable, fill the kitchen sink with about 5cm of hot water and place the bowl in the water when mixing. 

This is the type of recipe I like - not too many ingredients!

I picked up a set of heart cutters from the new Essential Ingredient store in Rozelle, together with some silver heart-shaped cachous and an orange silicon baking mat.  The mat is fabulous - you can roll out the dough on it and use it instead of baking paper, too.

I actually made two types of cookies - thinner un-iced ones, as well as the thicker lemon-iced ones. Tabitha cat kept a beady eye on them for me.

Just in time for February 14 - Valentine's Day, that is.
Or Chinese New Year, as well!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Hot dang - a fast Beef Rendang

So, what do you do if you crave some beef rendang but don't have 2 hours to wait for the meat to cook? Why, you 'look for shortcuts', of course!

This usually happens when the lightbulb goes off above your head at, say, around 4pm.  But that doesn't leave much time to leave work, get to the shops, find and purchase your ingredients, rush home, chop and prep, then cook the meal.  And don't get me started on presenting it nicely on a plate.  Plating up? Pshaw!

The shortcuts I made to this version of rendang are numerous and many. Not really. I just used a prepared rendang paste from the supermarket, and pre-cooked the beef by briefly sauteing it then resting it while the sauce cooked.  The sauce is not the 'proper' dry rendang sauce, as it contains quite a bit of coconut milk and stock, and the extra liquid does help the meat cook properly, and keeps it moist.   The dry rendang is also very good, as I evidenced by this version by AlmostBourdain, that I've had the pleasure of tasting - it's something I'd like to have a go at if I had more time!

Simple Beef Rendang
serves 4

1 tblsp vegetable oil
500g beef rump steak, trimmed
2 eschalots, chopped
1 cup dessicated coconut
4 tblsp rendang paste (use less if you want it less spicy)
400ml coconut cream (reduced fat is okay)
1 cup vegetable or beef stock
2 tblsp fish sauce
1 tblsp lime juice
1 stalk spring onion, sliced (optional)
boiled rice, to serve

1.  Heat 1/2 tblsp of oil in a large frying pan over high heat.  Cook the beef for about 3 minutes each side (for medium-rare), or until cooked to your liking.  Transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.
2.  Add eschalot and coconut to the pan.  Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.  Do not let the coconut get burnt. 
3.  Add the rendang paste and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until fragrant.
4.  Add coconut cream, stock and fish sauce.  Bring to the boil and reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-30 minutes until the sauce has thickened.  Stir in lime juice.
5.  Slice the beef into thin slices and return to the pan.  Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes until just heated through.
6.  Serve with rice and spring onion.
 - Any leftover sauce can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for a few days - just reheat in a saucepan.

The steak is cooked whole to start off with, then sliced and added to the sauce later.

Keep the dry coconut and rendang paste on the move by stirring -
it can brown quite quickly

This dish does not really lend itself to plating up -
I just bunged it on a sort of Asian-style plate.

...and don't forget the spring onion to garnish

Monday, February 1, 2010

Peanut Butter Pie - short, dark and rich

Recently, I’ve gone through a phase of cooking from older issues of magazines. The March 2009 issue of delicious is a case in point, and it’s surprising when you look at a recipe afresh – what seemed ordinary just 12 months ago now becomes a must-make-now kind of dish.

And so we come to this Peanut Butter Pie. It’s from Maggie Beer, so I thought it would be a comforting, old-fashioned type of dessert. It is that, and more. It wasn’t till after I’d made the pie that I looked it up on the internet and realised that it is an American favourite. With peanut butter, cream cheese and graham crackers, what else could it be? There are even versions that have it smothered in Cool Whip....

I have to say, though, that this peanut butter pie is best made when you have a few guests – there is no way you could have more than one slice of the pie at a time, it’s that rich. For the filling, I used salted peanut butter because that's all that the supermarket had - it gave the filling an unusual salty taste.  Further, the pie is not very sweet, which somehow makes it even more rich and just a bit cloying.  Try alleviating this with some vanilla ice cream - it makes it much better!

Peanut Butter Pie
serves 16

the crust
180g digestive biscuits (I used 16 Nice biscuits)
90g unsalted butter, melted
3 tsp caster sugar

the filling
1 cup (250ml) pure (thin) cream
1/2 cup (75g) caster sugar
320g cream cheese, chopped, at room temperature
375g crunchy salt-free peanut butter

the topping
150ml thickened cream
150g dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa), chopped
20g unsalted butter

1.  Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
2.  Process biscuits in a food processor until crumbled.  Add sugar and melted butter and pulse to combine, then press into the base of a 22cm springform cake pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.
3.  For the filling, place the cream and sugar in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring until the sugar dissolves. 
4.  Blend the cream cheese and peanut butter in food processor until combined.  Add the cream mixture and pulse to combine (or mix in by hand).  Spoon the filling on top of the pie crust and leave to cool.
5.  For the topping, bring the cream to just below boiling point in a saucepan over high heat.  Place chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl, then pour over the hot cream.  Leave for 3 minutes without touching. Then gently stir to melt the chocolate and butter into the cream.  Pour the topping over the pie.
6.  Chill the pie in the fridge, uncovered, for 4 hours or longer.
7.  Dust with cocoa before serving very thin slices.

Recipe adapted from delicious (March 2009)

The 3 stages of the crust: crumbs in the cake pan, crumbs smoothed out, crust after baking. I actually left out the sugar in the crust because the Nice biscuits already have sugar on them.
The 3 stages of the filling: peanut butter and cream cheese in food processor, cream and sugar on the simmer, filling poured onto the crust.
The 3 stages of the topping: hot cream poured onto butter and dark chocolate, it's all combined, topping poured onto the filling.
Yes, a small slice would be good.  Hint: A scoop of ice cream (vanilla or butterscotch) really brings out the flavours and lightens the experience.