Monday, March 29, 2010

Tiramisu with minibar Kahlua espresso syrup

My favourite Australian/New Zealand dessert is pavlova.  My favourite Italian dessert is tiramisu.  And aren't I lucky that, unlike the pavlova, tiramisu is so easy to make.

There are many versions of tiramisu, but this recipe is based on a 'deconstructed' version from Donna Hay.  In the original, she layers the biscuits and mascarpone on a plate and spoons the syrup on top.  I prefer to layer everything in a bowl, as the savoiardi biscuits are just meant to absorb all the delicious liquid.

Speaking of which, I just adore Kahlua.  I'm not a big drinker (or should I say, I'm not a drinker at all), but I won't say no to something sweet.  I had to buy the Kahlua to make this and ended up just getting a little bottle from the liquor store.  Too cute.  I may also get the delightful Grand Marnier one, and start up my own personal hotel mini bar in the living room.

Tiramisu with Espresso Syrup
serves 2-3

1/2 cup (125ml) strong black coffee
1/3 cup (80ml) coffee liqueur (Kahlua, Tia Maria, etc)
2 tblsp brown sugar
1 cup (250g) mascarpone
1/4 cup (60ml) cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tblsp brown sugar, extra
6-8 small store-bought sponge finger biscuits (Savoiardi)

1.  Place coffee, liqueur and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Simmer for 5-6 minutes (the alcohol will evaporate). Pour into a shallow bowl and refrigerate until cool.
2.  Whisk together the mascarpone, cream, vanilla and extra sugar until combined. Do not overbeat or the mixture will be too thick.
3.  Remove coffee liquid from refrigerator.  Dip one side of a sponge-finger biscuit into the coffee, then turn it over and dip the other side.  Arrange the biscuit in the base of a serving bowl and repeat the dipping until the base of the bowl is covered.  You may need to cut the biscuits to size first.
4.  Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the biscuits.  Dip and arrange the remaining biscuits and top with the remaining cream.  Note: If you want more of an alcohol hit, sprinkle a little coffee liqueur over the biscuit layers.
5.  Refrigerate the tiramisu for at least 2 hours.  Sprinkle with cocoa powder before serving.  The tiramisu keeps for 3 days in the refrigerator, and its flavour improves over this time.

Recipe adapted from no time to cook (Donna Hay)
Some of the ingredients. I do like the mini-bar sizes of Kahlua...

Just pictures of the pouring of the syrup.

The savoiardi biscuits really soak up the liquid - make sure you dip both sides of the biscuit so that the syrup infuses all the way through.

A sprinkling of cocoa to complete this delicious dessert

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Adriano Zumbo Winter 2010 Phoenix

Very excited I was this morning as I picked up a healthy breakfast of hot cross buns and pastries from Adriano Zumbo Patissier.  For in the glass case was a new cake.

Charles from the shop said it had only been invented 2 days ago, and he called it Phoenix.  On closer inspection, the cake looks slightly familiar, as are the flavours - raspberry biscuit with white chocolate creme.  Charles also said something about capsicum and chilli, but by this point I was pretty excited and didn't take it all in.  That's chilli powder on the top, though.  And silver leaf.
I haven't eaten this cake yet as I wanted to share it with you first. I'll let you know how it goes.
By the way, while waiting for the rest of the new season's cakes to arrive, there is a 'transition' range of cakes at Zumbo, consisting of lots of old favourites including
Marry Me Ed, Dr Apple, Scuro and Tanzanie.  It's a wonderful opportunity to try them if you haven't already. 


Update: Monday ('the day after')

Okay, so I've now eaten the Phoenix
On first taste, the vanilla coating reminded me of something, and, after much scouring of the dark, dim recesses of my memory (and this blog archive), it's this (the top of the V from Zumbo's Winter 2009 collection).
Inside the cake is a lovely red coloured log of jelly that is made of capsicum.  Sorry, I'd just eaten dinner, so I wasn't too keen on its antipasto flavour for dessert.
The rest of the cake was alright, and the biscuit base was a lot like a compacted friand, with raspberry bits.
So, Phoenix (or whatever it ends up being called) was above-average - not a raving success, but not bad, either.
Thank you and good night!


UpdateMay 2010 - Winter 2010 range has been launched.

For more on the Adriano Zumbo Winter 2010 range, click here.

And wouldn't you know it, the 'Phoenix' is nowhere to be seen!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A photogenic Smoked Chicken and Radish salad

How's this for a healthy salad?  The late burst of warm weather here has played havoc with mealtimes: who wants a heavy meal of roast meat and vegetables when the temperature can't make up its mind and decides to give us a few more days of heatwave?

This salad is a compromise between the fantasy of roast chicken and duck fat potatoes I had planned, and the reality of being too darned boiling hot to be bothered.  Throw in the surprise find of a neatly trimmed bunch of radishes from the supermarket, and dinner's on the table.

Smoked Chicken and Radish Salad
serves 2

3 smoked chicken drumsticks (or 1 smoked chicken breast), meat shredded
50g rocket or baby spinach leaves
6 radishes, sliced
1 small avocado, sliced
1 small handful of roasted almonds
Salad dressing, eg. 3 parts olive oil to 1 part red wine vinegar, whisked

1.  Arrange all ingredients in an attractive manner of a plate.
2.  Sprinkle on the dressing and toss lightly
3.  Photograph the dish to within an inch of its life.  Serve.

My local supermarket is sometimes (pleasantly) unpredictable - here are some radishes I unearthed in the 'Fresh Food' section.
Mostly, though, the supermarket is just annoying.
Lots of healthy vegetables, nuts and chicken protein

motto: a colourful salad is a good salad!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

This sauce rocks my boat - caramelised balsamic

Here's an idea: use sauce as the knockout component of a dish.  Oh, the French have been doing it for decades?  Sorry if I'm a bit late to the party...

This caramelised balsamic sauce came about because I thought the fig and prosciutto I was serving for a starter was a bit plain on its own. Sure, there was also some mascarpone as well, but the plate lacked 'oomph'.  The sauce (with only 2 ingredients!) was the result.

Figs and prosciutto with Caramelised Balsamic
serves 2

2 ripe figs
2 thin slices prosciutto
4 tablespoons mascarpone

1/4 cup (60ml) balsamic vinegar (or red wine vinegar)
2 tblsp brown sugar

1.  Make the sauce by heating the vinegar and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until the sugar melts and the mixture bubbles and thickens, about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.
2.  Meanwhile, crisp the prosciutto by putting the slices on a baking tray and roasting in a 200 deg C oven for 5 minutes, or until brown and crunchy.  Remove from oven and break into large pieces.
3.  Halve the figs and place a fig on each plate with 2 tablespoons of mascarpone.  Scatter over the prosciutto. Spoon over the sauce in a modern, decorative manner.  Serve.

Ingredient shot.  You'll also need mascarpone, and brown sugar and balsamic vinegar (not shown, as they are not photogenic enough)

Looks impressive, non?

The flavour of the sauce is lovely - intense and sweet at the same time.  The texture of the dish is also great, with the softness of the figs and mascarpone complementing the shattering prosciutto shards.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sweet, sweet Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird cake is a longtime favourite of mine.  Its combination of banana, pineapple and nuts makes beautifully moist, while slatherings of cream cheese frosting make it deliciously tangy sweet. It is like a blond fruit cake, but lighter.

I decided to make this cake because I got some bananas from the supermarket.  Here is the 'ripeness' timetable:
Wednesday: Bought some bananas.  Status: Green
Thursday:  Green/yellow
Friday:  Green/yellow
Saturday:  Yellow/green
Sunday:  Yellow/green (note: weekend baking deadline has passed)
Monday:  Yellow
Tuesday:  Yellow/brown spots
Wednesday:  Yellow/more brown spots
Thursday: Ripe enough for hummingbird cake (but no time to bake).
So I put the bananas in the freezer till the weekend.

Hint: Peel the bananas and put them back in their peels before freezing.  Otherwise, you'll have to cut the peels away from the frozen bananas when you need to use them.  The skins will also turn a horrid brown colour, but the bananas are still okay.

The cake can also be made with pecans or walnuts, though I've used macadamia nuts in this version.  Hope you like it.

Hummingbird Cake
serves 12

2/3 cup macadamia nuts, chopped
3 cups self-raising flour
1 cup caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1/4 desiccated coconut
1 tsp vanilla essence
440g can crushed pineapple, lightly drained
3 medium ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups canola or vegetable oil

250g light cream cheese, softened
150g unsalted butter, softened
2 cups icing sugar mixture
2 tsp grated lemon zest

1.  Preheat oven to 160 deg C.  Grease and line the base and sides of a 24cm springform tin.
2.  Place macadamia nuts on a baking tray and roast for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
3.  Sift the flour into a bowl and add the caster sugar, brown sugar, coconut and cinnamon.  Stir to combine.
4.  In another bowl, mix the mashed banana, eggs, oil, pineapple, vanilla and macadamias.
5.  Add the wet mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
6.  Pour into the baking tin.  Bake for at least one hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.  Cool the cake completely, then remove from the tin.
7.  To make the icing, place all ingredients into a bowl and beat until smooth.  Spread over the cold cake.

Ingredients (some of), including frozen brown bananas

The cake is lovely and golden, but still needs a protective coating of cream cheese icing...
This is a moist, flavoursome cake, offset by the tang of the icing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Taste of Sydney 2010 - a Battle of the Tastebuds

Food from Danks St Depot and Four in Hand at Taste of Sydney 2010

This is the second year of Taste of Sydney, and like its premiere season in 2009, it did not disappoint.

I had fingers and toes crossed for the predicted rain to hold off on Saturday, and it did, with intermittently sunny skies and a refreshing breeze providing a relaxing backdrop to the AM session (here ends the weather report).
Taste of Sydney seemed a bit better organised this year, with no waiting to get into the event (held inside Centennial Park). Once there, there were several seating areas scattered around, though very little shade was provided. The restaurant tents were around the perimeter with food and wine producers’ stalls filling in the gaps.
We nabbed a seat near the Opera Bar, with a front row view of the bandstand and DJ – they provided some pleasant entertainment for the hour or so we were there eating our meals. So let’s get on with the food...

The dishes we tried are in contest this year – a head-to-head battle between restaurants competing for the title of Best in Show.

First up, Berowra Waters Inn and Four in Hand (Paddington).
Berowra Waters Inn’s contribution was Quail Breast and Truffled Risotto Croustillant, with tender quail encased in risotto with a crispy batter/coating. It sat on a gorgeous broad bean(?) puree.
Four in Hand had Dashi and soy marinated tuna with spicy avocado puree and pickled cauliflower and garden radish salad. This was a pretty dish with the fresh tuna a good match with the bite of the radish. I did find the marinade a bit salty, though.
And the winner is... Berowra Waters Inn – this was an amazing dish, very well executed.

Next, we have Danks St Depot and Guillaume at Bennelong.
Danks St Depot’s Beef Ribs Smoked in Watermelon with a Watermelon and Avocado Salad certainly sounded intriguing. The flavour of the smoke (very like Liquid Smoke, actually) was pervasive. The beef rib was a bit dry though I loved the smokiness of the watermelon cubes.
Guillaume at Bennelong’s dish of Wagyu Beef Daube with Paris Mash was outstanding. The beef was so tender it had no trouble being shredded with just a plastic fork. The flavour was spot on, and the Paris mash was smooth and with a beautiful flavour.
In the battle of the beef, Guillaume at Bennelong is the clear winner!

Next on the menu are El Toro Loco (Manly) and Pilu at Freshwater.

My first recce to grab a paella from El Toro Loco was denied – the massive paella was not ready. But 10 minutes later, it was, and what a magnificent paella it turned out to be. Chock full of mussels, prawns, fish and saffron, the taste was superb. A little salty, but a great version.
Pilu at Freshwater’s Risotto with Crystal Bay prawns and zucchini was another example of rice done well. While not quite al dente, the risotto had an amazing flavour that was enhanced by the almost scampi-like richness of the prawns.
This was a close call, but the award goes to ... Pilu at Freshwater.

One of the most prestigious Ooh, Look awards is in the Dessert category, where we have Becasse up against Jonah’s at Whale Beach. This was always going to be a tough call, as Jonah’s jiggly panna cotta was my favourite dish from last year’s Taste of Sydney.
Becasse’s Chocolate Souffle looked like and upside-down chocolate friand. It also looked a bit dry. But looks can be deceiving, and it turned out to be a light-as-air concoction that melted in the mouth. It was accompanied by a quenelle of vanilla-scented cream.
Jonah’s Vanilla panna cotta with lavender honey and fresh pomegranate was as awesome as I remembered. The creaminess of the panna cotta was incredible, and it had a subtle scent of lavender. The pomegranate syrup was tangy and intense. A perfect combination.
Again, this was a close one, but Jonah’s at Whale Beach is the winner in this category.
And again, for the second year in a row, Jonah’s panna cotta wins Best in Show!

All up, the two of us spent $110 for the food, plus 2 James Squire beers and a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water. The weather held up well and we got a table to eat at. The food and wine stalls and kitchen sessions did not interest me much this year, and I found there was not so much to buy. But being able to get out and enjoy the event with such wonderful food really is priceless (or $110 for two).

Friday, March 12, 2010

Adriano Zumbo V8 cake - one is not enough

I mentioned previously that I was disappointed to miss out on Adriano Zumbo's "V8" cake. I am now welcoming to the site car enthusiasts searching for 'V8 supercars', or health nuts after 'V8 vegetable juice recipes'.  Hello to you if you are one of these mis-directed souls...

Anyway, to make up for the prior miss, here are TWO V8s (does that make them a V16?).  Because the other half came home with one, which he enjoyed so much he went and bought another one the next day.

The 'V' stands for Vanilla, and there are 8 layers of vanilla-flavoured goodness in this cake, including custard (creme patissier) and some other unidentified though delicious tiers.  You'd have to like vanilla to enjoy this one, and I do on both counts.

By the way, the second of these cakes is for Conor of Hold the Beef - the poor dear is over in Perth and does not have ready access to Zumbo delights. If you would like a cake dedicated to you, please drop me a line.  Vroom, vroom!

Update: July 2010 - The MasterChef aftermath

Yes, the now infamous V8 cake was featured in the MasterChef Australia 2010 finals. 
The hapless (lucky?) contestants were tasked with reproducing the 8 layers of vanilla in a spectacular, sweaty and teary contest.
The cake that Adriano Zumbo brought to the episode was a larger version of the V8 cake shown here.  And it had a more glossy vanilla glaze, topped with a tempered white chocolate flower.  The other layers are the same, though.

This smaller version of the cake was available at the Zumbo Patisserie in March 2010 (part of the summer range), where it was $8.50 per unit. There have been reports that a new version of V8 will be available for $150.  Let's hope it's a bit bigger than this one.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chicken pie that's better than his mum's

The idea for Chicken Pie for dinner came about when I had one chicken thigh fillet left over from a previous meal.  So I looked up the ever-reliable Taste recipe website and found this idea for a pie.  All well and good, except that I needed another chicken thigh.

Fast forward to last night at the local (overcrowded) supermarket and the massive queue/scrum at the deli counter. I only needed one thigh fillet, so there should have been an Express lane for small purchases.  No such luck, and the hair-netted serving lady wasn't going to be serving me anytime soon.  So I ended up buying a pre-packaged tray of six chicken thighs from the refrigerated cabinet.

Looks like Chicken Pie is going to be on the menu for the rest of the week. Good thing it's a superb recipe.

 Chicken, mushroom and bacon pie
serves 2

2 (approx 100g each) chicken thigh fillets, trimmed, thinly sliced across the grain
2 tblsp plain flour
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tblsp olive oil
1 small leek, trimmed, halved, washed, thinly sliced
2 rashers bacon, finely chopped
100g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons chicken stock
2 sheets frozen ready-rolled puff pastry, partially thawed

1. Prepare 2 pie pans, each about 1-cup capacity, by placing them on a baking tray. Alternatively, you could make a 1 large pie using a 2-cup capacity pie dish. Preheat oven to 200 deg C.

2. Meanwhile, place chicken, flour and paprika in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Heat oil in a small non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add chicken. Cook, tossing often, for 4 minutes or until browned. Remove to a bowl.

3. Reduce heat to medium. Add leek and bacon to pan. Cook for 1 minute or until leek is soft. Add mushrooms and stock. Return chicken to pan. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Set aside for 5 minutes.

4. Spoon warm chicken filling into pie pans. Cut a round from the puff pastry to cover each pie pan. Place over the filling, pressing the pastry edges over the rim of the pan to enclose. Trim off excess puff pastry. Cut 2 or 3 small air vents in the pie top. Brush top with water and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden. Serve.

Ingredients - looks very 'homestyle country', doesn't it?

There is a bit of chopping of ingredients required; and the chicken is coated with flour and paprika to give it more flavour in the pie
After cooking the chicken, leek, bacon and mushrooms in a frypan, everything is poured into a pie dish and topped with puff pastry.

The pie is a gorgeous, warming and delicious meal.  The other half said it was better than his mum's version.  I haven't tasted hers, but I'm sure it's good, so 'mine' must be even better!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chicken Prawn and Chorizo Paella

It was just the other day that I bought the Movida Rustica cookbook (on sale!) and thought 'Hmm, looks like I'll have to start making Spanish dishes'.  The book is a really luscious tome, full of images of Spain and its food as well as Frank Camorra's observations of eating there.  Plus, and this is a personal opinion, the thick, art paper-y pages have a really nice smell...

But after looking at a couple of recipes, I realised at I'm not quite ready to dive into the book's contents just yet.  Need to buy some more provisions and utensils to really do it justice. So, I made this recipe from Donna Hay instead.

Chicken, Prawn and Chorizo Paella
serves 2-3

1 1/2 tblsp olive oil
200g chicken thigh fillets, trimmed and chopped
200g green (raw) prawns, peeled and deveined
1 chorizo sausage, sliced thinly
1 small brown onion, chopped
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/4 tsp paprika
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 cup (150g) medium-grain rice, such as Arborio
440g can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cups (310ml) chicken stock
parsley and lemon wedges, to serve

1.  Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, non-stick frypan over high heat.  Add the chicken and cook until golden brown and cooked through (about 4 minutes).  Add the prawns and cook until they change colour (about 2-3 minutes).  Remove to a plate lined with paper towel.
2.  Add the chorizo to the pan and cook until browned (about 1 minute each side).  Put with the chicken and prawn on the plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
3.  Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan with the onion, garlic, chilli and paprika.  Stir until onion is softened, about 2 minutes.
4.  Add the rice, tomatoes and stock. Stir, then cover with a tight-fitting lid.  Turn heat to low and cook for 20-25 minutes until the rice is tender.
5.  Stir through the chicken, prawn and chorizo.  Top with parsley and squeeze over the lemon before serving.

Recipe adapted from donna hay magazine (Feb/Mar 2010)

Some of the ingredients for the paella-style dish

The chicken, prawns and chorizo are cooked first.

Then, the rice, tomatoes and stock are added to the onion and spices.

Served with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Chocolatesuze Wedding

I wasn't going to post on this event, especially since the 'official' photos haven't been released yet.  So I hope no one minds if I just show these couple of pictures.

Yes, it's from the wedding of Sydney's lovely foodblogging princess, Chocolatesuze, and her Noods.  It took place in a garden on a blazingly sunny day, surrounded by family, friends and well-wishers.

The bride and her attendants carried lollipop bouquets, and the groomsmen had lollipop boutonnières. Suze looked absolutely beautiful and was also dressed for comfort with wedding sneakers and an iPod.

Food was thoughtfully provided after the wedding ceremony. My favourites were the fairy floss and the Krispy Kreme donuts.  Wouldn't you love to have your own personal fairy floss man on call?
Everyone loves a wedding...

And just so I can put something under the 'Craft' tag, here is a picture of the card I made for the happy couple:
Details: Acetate card with American Crafts patterned paper and rub-ons; KI Memories ribbon

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Adriano Zumbo's still at it - a not too shabby collection

Some more Adriano Zumbo cakes, including a couple of new mid-season releases:

The traffic cone-shaped  'Is anybody working' is very fragile.  It's a cone of wobbly mousse encased in bright orange crumbs.  I took one of these to a friend's house and it barely survived the journey.  It tasted alright, though.

'Not too s-h-a-b-b-y' is my favourite of this batch - the chocolate mousse is rich and smooth, and the cake looks so tall, dark and handsome.  I'd call this one 'Prince Charming'.

Another tart-based creation.  'La Premiere of Tom and Jerry' is a cacophony of flavours, though it's the almond mousse that dominates. The taste is reminiscent of Perkin's Paste - I felt like the class misfit that tried to get attention by eating the paste out of the jar...

'Pilgrim's Delight' is a not-so-delightful dome of strange-tasting cream topped with super-bitter burnt orange.  The best part for me was the praline crumbs and the cheesecake base, which I saved to eat last.

So, there are a couple of so-so cakes out of this lot.  I noticed a new vanilla layered cake called 'V8' when I was there with My Food Trail, but haven't seen it since... I want it, now!  Stay tuned to see if it turns up again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Ginger scallion sauce with noodles a la momofuku

There has been a flurry of blog cooking activity based on the Momofuku cookbook since it was released.  And so there should be, considering the complex, sometimes intricate, yet delicious creations it contains.

Most of the recipes are not difficult, but they do require a bit of preparation, not to mention some translation of the ingredients if you don't have items such as usukuchi (light soy sauce) or kochukaru (Korean chilli powder) on hand.  So, while we can drool over the pork buns, fried chicken and cereal milk, for this little blogger at least, they will have to remain within the pages of the cookbook for now. 

But that doesn't stop me from trying an 'adaption' of one of the easiest recipes.  It's a version of a ginger and scallion sauce that can be eaten with anything from chicken to noodles. Which is what I made it to have with here.  It tastes as good as the Chinese version that normally accompanies white cut chicken - except you don't have to worry about pouring boiling hot oil over the scallions (spring onions).

Ginger Scallion Sauce
makes about 1 cup

1 cup scallions (spring onions), finely sliced
1 tblsp minced ginger
1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp light soy sauce (or normal, or salt-reduced - whatever you have)
1 tsp rice wine vinegar (or sherry vinegar)
1 tsp salt flakes

1. Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl. 
2.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if required.  [Personally, I like it salty, and prefer to reduce the soy and add more salt flakes to taste]
3.  Leave to stand (in the refrigerator) for 15-20 minutes.
4.  Eat with ramen noodles, or with poached chicken.  The sauce keeps for a day or two in the refrigerator.

Simply mix together the spring onion, ginger, soy, vinegar, salt and oil. Then wait patiently.
Sauce is served with a classic bowl of noodles.