Apr 28, 2011

Hey Pesto!

This super easy, very quick pesto recipe is from a fantastic book: Preserved, Nick Sandler and Johnny Acton, Kyle Cathie Ltd.  The writing is informative and entertaining and the photographs are scrumptious.  If you have been bitten by the 'slow food and home grown veggies bug', this is definitely a book that you should have in your reportoire!  

Basil Pesto

100 g fresh basil, stalks removed
Juice of two medium lemons (i only use one)
100 g pine nuts, dry roasted in a pan until lightly coloured (In SA, pine nuts are not always so easy to come buy and also very pricey.  I substitute almonds for the pine nuts, you could also use walnuts.)
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
150 ml olive oil
100 g finely grated parmesan (a more affordable alternative: pecorino)
freshly ground black pepper

Blend the basil, lemon juice, nuts, salt, garlic and olive oil into a mixture resembling the texture of couscous.  Using a spatula, transfer to a bowl and stir in the parmesan and black pepper.

The pesto can be stored in a sterilised airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks, or you can freeze it for up to six months.

Rocket grows like a weed (welcome, nonetheless) in my garden, so i often make rocket pesto.  You could also make pesto using other herbs like coriander or parsley or a combination.  You could add a few olives to your pesto... The possibilities are endless :)

It is so handy to have a few jars of pesto in the fridge or freezer.  If you don't have energy for a fancy dinner, just boil some pasta, pop some bacon or pancetta in the oven to crisp up.  Once the pasta is boiled, toss it through with your delicious pesto, sprinkle the bacon over the top et voilà!  You could throw a few lovely red cherry tomatoes over the pasta too, or maybe some olives... Yum yum yum.... guess what i'm having for supper tonight!

Apr 20, 2011

Indian Bobotie

I usually make a bobotie from one of my mother's old recipe books. It is a very simple recipe with few ingredients.  Last night i gave this recipe (from: Favourite Dishes of the World, Pat Kossnur, Tafelberg Publishers, 1993) a try...

Botie Lagan (Indian Bobotie)
Serves 6

2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
30 ml oil
30 ml curry powder  (We used a strong curry powder, which made the curry flavour too strong. To my mind, a bobotie should only have a mild curry flavour. But, it's up to you!)
500 g minced chicken, lamb or beef (You could also make this dish with roughly mashed sugar beans or a mixture of pulses)
1 apple, grated
30 ml chutney
5 ml salt
1 slice bread, soaked in 125 ml milk
30 ml chopped fresh mint (I left this out)
2 eggs, beaten
125 ml milk
lemon or bay leaves (optional)

Soften onions and garlic in oil with curry powder.  Add meat and cook until colour turns.  Add apple, chutney, salt, mashed bread, mint, and 1 of the beaten eggs.  Place mixture in a well greased casserole and smooth the top.  Add the remaining egg to the milk and pour over the top. Press in the leaves.  Bake for 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius or until set.

Apr 13, 2011

Italian-Inspired Desserts, part 3

Unforunately, i don't have any mouth-watering pics of this yummy dessert.  It is a recipe that i tried loooong before i knew what a blog is!  This is a recipe from, as you know, one of my favourite recipe books: Marie-Claire Flavours, Donna Hay, Murdoch Books, 2000.  On page 121 of this gem of a recipe book, you will find a recipe for chocolate panna cotta. Beware, this is not for the faint-hearted!!  This Italian dessert is extremely delicious and just as rich!

Chocolate Panna Cotta
Serves 6
4 cups cream
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
185 g milk or dark couverture chocolate, chopped
2 teaspoons gelatine
1/4 cup water

Place the cream, icing sugar and vanilla in a saucepan and allow to simmer slowly, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced by a third.  Be sure that the cream doesn't catch on the bottom of the pan.  Add the chocolate and stir until smooth.
Place the gelatine in a bowl and add the water.  Leave to swell for 5 minutes.  Place the gelatine mixture in a saucepan over low heat until the gelatine has dissolved.  Stir into the hot cream and chocolate mixture and simmer for 1 minute.  Pour into six 1/2-cup capacity moulds or ramekins and refrigerate for 4-6 hours until firm.

Apr 12, 2011

Italian-Inspired Desserts, part 2

Now for part 2: Panforte!

Thanks to Wikipedia, i have just learnt that panforte literally means 'strong bread', referring to its spicy flavours.  This Italian sweet bread has been around for centuries and could possibly date back to 1205, when it was suspected to have been made for the first time in Siena, Tuscany.  If a panforte has been made 'properly', it is apparently supposed to contain 17 ingredients, for the 17 Contrade within the city walls of Siena (a whole other story, interesting, but not food-related, so i will spare you!).

Because this recipe has been around for such a long time, there are several different versions.  Originally, panforte didn't contain chocolate, but now most do contain either chocolate or cocoa or both.  In some more modern recipes, the pepper has been omitted.  The medley of spices is another thing which changes significantly from recipe to recipe.

This is something very different, not for everyone.  I made this recipe because the picture looked so good and not, as i usually would, because of the ingredients listed.  I would actually recommend making this around Christmas time.  The flavours and aroma's reminded me so of Christmas - cinnamon, cloves, honey, roasted nuts...  Yummy!!

4 small sheets of rice paper
100 g skinned hazelnuts
100 g blanched almonds 
(you can use macadamia or walnuts too)
1 teaspoon each of whole coriander seeds, cloves, nutmeg and black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
50 g dried figs, finely chopped
15 ml cocoa
200 g candied orange and lemon peel, roughly chopped
grated zest of 1 lemon
50 g all purpose flour
150 g sugar
60 ml honey
30 ml butter
icing sugar,to dust

Butter and line the base of a 20 cm spring-form cake tin with rice paper.  Cut a few strips to line the sides as well. 
Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius.  Lightly brown the nuts on a baking tray for approximately 6-8 minutes.  Check often as they burn easily.
Grind the whole spices together in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar.  I found that my spice grinder couldn't get the spices as fine as i would have liked.  Upon tasting the end result, one every now and then bit into a peppercorn or a fragment of clove.  This is, to me, too overpowering.  When i make this again, i would prefer to use the spice powders.  Also, to make it more palate-friendly, i will omit the pepper.
Put the nuts, spices, figs, cocoa, candied peel, lemon zest and flour together in a metal or china bowl and mix well.
In a heavy-based saucepan, melt the sugar, butter and honey together.  Stir briefly until the butter melts into the sugar.  Do not stir again to prevent the sugar from crystallsing.  Bring to the boil and cook until the syrup reaches 120 degrees Celsius on a sugar thermometer.  Alternately: if a little drop of the mixture forms a soft ball when dropped into cold water.
Immediately pour the syrup over your nut and spice mixture. Work quickly to combine all the ingredients evenly.  Pour into your prepared tin and smooth with the top of a spatula. If you find the spatula sticking to the mixture, just wet it with a bit of water.
Bake for approximately 15 minutes.  Unlike other cakes, Panforte will not seem very firm when cooked, but it will harden as it cools down.  Once cool, remove from the cake tin and place on your serving dish.  To serve, dust with icing sugar.

Apr 11, 2011

Italian-Inspired Desserts, part 1

The thing with book club is this:  you want to be drinking wine and chatting with your ladies the whole evening.  You don't want to be stuck in the kitchen, but you do want to show off your kitchen prowess with delicious food!  Here are two recipes (both from Great Tastes Italian, Bay Books, Murdoch Books Australia, 2009) to help you do just that...

For a bit of extra book club glam, i
served my tiramisu's in martini lasses!
Serves 4-6
5 eggs, separated
180 g castor sugar
250 g mascarpone
250 ml very strong coffee, cold
45 ml brandy or sweet marsala
44 small sponge fingers
80 g dark chocolate, finely grated

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light and fluffy.  Add the mascarpone and beat until the mixture is smooth.
Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry glass bowl until soft peaks form.  Fold into the mascarpone mixture.
Pour the coffee into a shallow dish.  Add the brandy.  Dip some of the sponge fingers into the coffee mixture, taking care not to let them become too soft.  Arrange the biscuits in a tightly packed layer to cover the base of a 25 cm square dish.
Spread half the mascarpone mixture over the layer of biscuits.  Add another layer of soaked biscuits and then another of mascarpone.  Neatly smooth the top layer. Leave to rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
Before serving, dust with the grated chocolate.

My amendments:  Even though i made good quality very strong filter coffee, i found it too watery for the biscuits.  One should either have something more substantial than finger biscuits (less porous) or use a coffee flavour that is more concentrated.  Considering that the finger biscuits are so a part of the tradition of tiramisu, finding a stronger coffee flavour would be the better solution.  When i posed this dilemma to my sister, she suggested the use of coffee liqueur.  I think that that would work very well.  Just drizzling the coffee liqueur over the finger biscuits.  One could then omit the brandy. For a dessert, actually for most dishes, i like to have a contrast of textures on the plate/dish.  With this tiramisu, i would like the fingers to still have a bit of firmness to contrast with the soft smooth custard.  I think that that can be acheived by using liqueur instead of coffee.

Here is another recipe, apparently by the lady who got it from the restaurant that first made tiramisu... only as far back as the 1970's.
I prefer the idea of this one, as the eggs are actually cooked. Can't say that i am a huge fan of the idea of eating raw eggs!  I will definitely give this recipe a try sometime soon (hopefully) and let you all know how it goes!

I've just realised that i've written quite a bit more than initially intended, and i haven't even attached photo's yet!  So i think that we will have to split this story up... Panforte to come tomorrow...

Apr 6, 2011

A White Wedding

I had so much fun and pleasure in creating this wedding cake.  Something quite traditional and very romantic! 
I had to deliver this wedding cake to the Lord Charles Hotel.  This is the second time that i have had to deliver a cake there and it was just as much of a pleasure this time as the previous occasion.  The staff are so friendly and assisting and the venue  is perfectly set up early in the morning already.  It is such a treat to walk into a beautifully decorated venue with a table ready and waiting for me to do my thing!  It happens so often that i arrive at the venue an hour before proceedings are to start (on request of the bride) and tables haven't even been laid yet.  My nerves wouldn't be able to handle it - i don't know how theirs do!

Here are the pics...

Apr 4, 2011

Chicken Tandoori

For my birthday last year, my gran gave me a book of recipes from countries around the world: Favourite Dishes of the World, Pat Kossuth, Tafelberg Publishers, 1993.  Last week Wednesday was a lovely cool Autumnal day and i thought that it a good idea to make a nice spicey curry to warm our hearts before the pending Winter!  I immediately thought of a Chicken Tandoori, as i have never made one before and almost as immediately thought of looking in the book my gran gave me!  Unfortunately, the dish disappeared so quickly, that i didn't have time to take a photo :(  And, i even made it in a beautiful casserole dish that we received as a wedding gift from an aunt of mine, so that the dish would be more photogenic!

Here is my version of this delicious recipe.  The combination of spices is just perfect.  As i finished mixing everything together, before placing the dish in the oven, the aromas coming from the casserole were so enticing, i wished away the hours until dinner time!

Tandoori Murghi (Tandoori chicken)
(Serves 6-8)

1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed or thinly sliced
15 ml ginger, freshly grated
30 ml curry powder
3 ml each of cumin, cinnamon, coriander and turmeric
5 ml salt
10ml sugar
500 ml yoghurt
1 - 1.5 kg chicken (i used thigh pieces, but you can use anything that you prefer, even a whole chicken)

Fry the onions in a bit of oil or butter until translucent.  Add the spices.  Once they have heated up and you can smell all the divine aromas, add the yoghurt.  Mix together before adding the chicken pieces.  For a whole chicken, rub the spice and yoghurt mixture over the chicken and place in an oven dish.  Bake, uncovered, in the oven at 220 degrees Celsius for about half an hour.  

Savour the wonderful aromas emanating from your oven :)  Serve with some poppadoms and fragrant jasmine rice!

Apr 1, 2011

Perfect Profiteroles

My Croquembouche!!
So, as promised... here is that fabulously easy choux pastry recipe that i tried last week.  It comes from the April 2006 issue of the Food & Home Entertaining  magazine.

Choux Pastry (Pâte à Choux)
Makes approximately 30 small choux puffs or 15 long eclairs.
250 ml water
120 g butter
150 g cake flour
1 ml salt
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and lining a baking tray with baking paper.  In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the water to a boil.  As soon as the water is boiling and the butter is melted, add the flour and salt.  Stir briskly, incorporating the flour into the liquid.  Cook, stirring continuously until the mixture forms a mass and pulls away from the sides, about 2 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to cool for 10 minutes before adding the eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition.  The mixture should be soft and able to hold its shape when piped.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a nozzle of your choice and pipe small 'blobs' for the choux puffs or 10 cm lengths for the eclairs.  Leave gaps of about 3 cm in between each 'blob'.  Bake for 15 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius before reducing the temperature to 180 to bake for a further 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and prick each puff with a tooth pick before placing back into the oven. Bake at 100 degrees Celsius for a further 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before filling and/or covering.  Once filled, the choux puffs will only last for one day.

Helpful Hint:  Baked choux puffs can be stored in an airtight container and frozen until needed.  Freshen them up by baking them for 2-3 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius.

To compliment your èclairs or choux puffs, you need a classic crème patisserie.  Here is a super quick and easy recipe...

Pastry Cream (Crème Patisserie)
500 ml milk
55 ml butter
5 ml vanilla bean paste or 1 vanilla pod
2 large eggs
100 g castor sugar
50 ml cornflour
1 ml salt

Combine the milk, 15 ml of the butter and vanilla in a heat resistant bowl and bring to the boil.  In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, castor sugar, cornflour and salt.  Slowly add the hot milk to the egg mixture while whisking continuously.  Microwave on high at 1-minute intervals until cooked, whisking vigorously after each interval.  (I microwaved the custard for 3 minutes.)  Add the rest of the butter and stir to combine.  Cool in an ice bath, giving it a quick whisk every so often to prevent a skin from forming.  Place in the fridge until required.
Et voilà!

Helpful hint:  To make the custard a bit lighter, i whisk in a bit of whipped cream (or chantilly cream).

Chantilly Cream
250 ml whipping cream
15 ml icing sugar
5 ml vanilla extract

Beat the cream to soft peak stage.   Add the icing sugar and vanilla and beat to the required stiffness.