Thursday, June 27, 2013

Winter Fritters with Tuna, Corn and Courgette

Winter is definitely starting to set in, it’s harder to wake up, leave the house, in fact, the only thing that isn’t hard to do is eat. My winter alias is Juanita Solis. Today I served up beautiful winter fritters, with the base herbs warming the dish to bring the taste buds into season. The fritters are powered with chilli, cumin and smoked paprika and served with sweet chilli sauce and fresh mint leaves.

Yields 6 - 7
1 cup fresh corn
½ courgette/zucchini
1 small can tuna
1 regular potato
1 egg
½ cup flour
1 tsp chilli flakes
½ tbsp cumin
1 tsp powdered mustard
½ tsp smoked paprika
Mint leaves
Sweet chilli sauce  

In a bowl, combine grated courgette/zucchini, boiled potato, corn, tuna and herbs. Mix through to combine ingredients. Soon after add beaten egg and flour. The mixture should start to stick. On a medium heat, in olive oil, cook the fritters in a non stick pan, cooking 3 -5 minutes on each side. Press down once on each side, checking for excess liquid, a sign of a non cooked centre.

Serve with sweet chilli sauce and fresh mint leaves, for freshness. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Love the Pavlova

I want to start by saying baking is NOT my strong point. I made a ruby inspired pavlova, mostly with the intention of playing around with meringue and egg whites. There are as many recipes and secrets to the perfect pavlova as there are pavlovas made daily, so it is purely a matter of trial and error until you find the right mix. Pavlova has been a big part of my dessert life up until now; Christmas, birthdays, Easter, and mostly just because.

I concentrated on the stiffening of the egg whites with sugar; there were so many methods to this sugary madness so I’m going to play until I find the perfect method and ingredient ratio. My pav started beautifully rising in the oven, cooked in a spring tin (my mixture was a little too fluid), then fell a little. What I learnt from my first attempt was the following;

1.       Egg whites need to be relatively stiff before adding the sugar incrementally. You can possibly over beat them if you beat the sugar into the mixture too late or early.
2.       The meringue mixture should not be grainy when you rub between your fingers, to test
3.       Eggs should be at room temperature, with NO traces of yolk; the slightest trace of fat will throw off the stiffening process.
4.       Make sure you clean all utensils (bowl and beater) with hot water, removing all residual grease, cleaning with a paper cloth or towel.
5.       You need to find a supreme ratio between egg whites, vinegar, sugar and cornflour, so many variations!  
6.       Cook for 1.5 to 2 hours at 120 degrees Celsius and leave to sit in oven with the door open for at least 30 minutes before removing or decorating.
7.       Caster sugar is NOT the same as labelled white sugar – I had a very, very stupid moment.

Serves 6 – 8
6 egg whites
1.5 cups caster sugar
3 tbsp cornflour
1 tsp white vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract

Marty’s Topping
1 cup thickened cream, whipped
1 punnet strawberries
½ small pomegranate
1 passionfruit
3 tsp good quality honey

Start preheating the oven at 120 degrees C/ 248 degrees F. Separate egg whites into a clean mixing bowl. Start by beating on a medium speed, until soft peaks have formed. Once you have done so, start adding sugar incrementally, continually blending until stiff peaks form, changing the speed from medium to medium high. You should be able to tip the blow above you r head without the mixture falling. Be careful not to over beat the mixture; the meringue will collapse. Fold in cornflour, vinegar and vanilla extract with a plastic folding cake spatula.

Place on a baking tray, lined with baking paper, at a diameter of 20 cm. I had used a baking tray with sprayed sides. The fat from the oil had obviously affected the meringue as it fell slightly. Concentrate on forming a stiff meringue mixture to avoid having to use a spring tin.

While the pavlova is baking, whip cream and set aside. After the pavlova has cooked and hardened nicely all over, let it sit in the oven to dry out with the door open.  Dress the pavlova by spreading the whipped cream, placing strawberries within the centre. With a wooden spoon, hit the back of the pomegranate to remove seeds without breaking them. Do so into a bowl and spoon nicely all over. Finish with passionfruit and make thin circles around the cake with honey, creating a nest effect.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pan Asian Brussel Sprout Pastries with Cucumber vinegar

A beautiful pastry filled with chilli brussel sprouts and almonds, served with chilled cucumber vinegar.

I have been obsessing over the beautiful Thai cucumber vinegar dipping sauce served with many appetizers. I did a fusion recipe, combining brussels, a little more western with all Thai ingredients to create a pastry to be served with the beautiful dipping sauce.

The end result was a warm pillow of puff pastry centred with a savory brussel sprout and almond filling, dipped into sweet vinegar: a marriage of sweet and savory and of pastry and vinegar
Serves two - three
For the pastries
400g brussel sprouts, chopped
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 shallot/scallion
½ cup almonds, chopped
1 small bullet chilli
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
1 tsp soy sauce
½ tsp satay oil from sauce
½ tsp corn flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
Salt and white pepper
Cucumber Vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ cup white vinegar
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup cucumber, chopped
½ tsp ginger, crushed
½ tsp garlic, chopped

 Combine vinegar, water and sugar and boil until sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat and add cucumber, garlic and ginger once cooled and rest.

In a pan add minced garlic, ginger and chilli to some olive oil, fry and add brussels. Add all wet ingredients and coat brussels, cooking for 2 minutes before adding sugar and corn flour. Cook until brussels are soft, add chopped almonds and shallots and set aside to cool.

Take each sheet of puff pastry and divide into four squares. Spoon the brussels into the middle, fold over pastry to create triangles. Raise edges with your hands and pull the two bottom ends of the triangle inwards and link tips of pastry, creating a floral shape. With a fork, spike the edges of the pastry to create air and help raise edges. Coat each pastry with milk to help browning.

Place in a preheated oven of 200 degrees Celsius/392 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 25 minutes. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Butter and Butternut Pumpkin Pasta

A great pasta and also an ode to the anchovy. I love them – salty and a flavor enhancement for everything. Anchovies are great if you want to add a more natural salt to a recipe. If you add them to your cooking, especially sauces, they will dissolve and become a well rounded saltiness, no fishy aftermath. I love them so I use them whole too.

This was pretty much a throw together of everything I had left, but it turned out a lot better than I had expected. An easy, partially vegetarian eat.

Serves two - three
250g fettuccini
80g butter
2 cloves garlic
½ medium onion
300g butternut pumpkin
100g walnuts
½ lemon
2 tbsp parsley
¼ cup olive oil
1 shallot/scallion
1 tsp chilli flakes
Pinch of cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by coating pumpkin with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook in preheated oven for twenty minutes at two hundred degrees Celsius. Next, cook the pasta with olive oil and salt. In a separate pan heat the walnuts with chilli flakes and cumin to release the flavors and set aside. With the pan still slightly herb coated, add the butter and cook on a medium heat, adding onions and garlic, browning slightly. Follow with chopped anchovies and quickly remove from heat.

The next step is to add all ingredients to the butter sauce, retaining some of the pasta water to help coat pasta with a thicker sauce, adding olive oil to taste. Using the lemon juice, coat pasta an add salt and pepper. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Deconstructed Banoffee

Beautiful granita and pistachio truffles, toffee coated banana, piped with strawberry jam, served on sticky caramel with fresh strawberries and a web of toffee.

If you have ever had banoffee before you’ll know that this is the luxury crack of desserts. I cannot get enough and the best part is, homemade banoffee is always almost better than restaurant quality. She is very much a daughter of her mother, mother being England; rich, comforting and decadent. Desserts are a part of everyone’s lives and we all hold nostalgia for them.
The idea of the deconstructed banoffee is to give a different take on the texture, taste and tactile sense. To play on the nostalgia of ‘desserts and treats’; truffles, licking the bowl, jam filled pastries, toffee – the list could go on! These sensory memories paired with a banoffee should make for an interesting eat at a dinner party.

I’ve broken up the ingredients of the dessert to explore and experience taste through nostalgia. Sweet and savory sensory bombardments in this banoffee are a tasting platter marrying childhood to adulthood. I have listed an approximate amount of ingredients that makes for about four to six plates. The toffee cage was purely experimental after watching a Youtube video and playing around with measurements and methods. Have fun, try it out, it’s so much easier than I had imagined.

Serves four to six

120g granita biscuits
70g butter
395ml sweetened condensed milk
4 bananas
1 cup thickened cream
1/3 cup brown sugar
100g shelled pistachios
½ punnet of strawberries
100ml water
250g of white caster sugar
1 tsp honey
3 tbsp good strawberry jam

Make the caramel first to sit and solidify. Start by heating the condensed in a saucepan, once hot add 50g butter and brown sugar and stir constantly for 15 minutes, removing lumps. Do this with a wooden spoon. Set aside and leave to thicken.

For the biscuit base truffles, start by pounding the granita biscuits and 85 grams of the pistachios into crumbly pieces. Heat remaining butter and add through the mixture until full absorbed. With your hands, roll small balls until they resemble round truffles. Set in fridge to cool.

The next major component is the toffee cage. Start by bringing water to boil then add sugar and honey and cook, stirring regularly for 15 minutes, or until liquid has reduced into a thick golden syrup. Add a small nob of butter to help the toffee bind better. Let cool for 5 minutes and then with a spoon drizzle the thick toffee over the back of a soup ladle for a rounded shape. Be sure to keep the spoon high while you drizzle to keep the toffee consistent and thin. Coat the back of the ladle, painting a spider web. Once it has formed a thick web, lightly turn then with fingers and it should come off nicely. While it is still pliable, mould into a cage by rounding the web with your hands. Make a few, as needed and place in the fridge to harden. Hold onto the remaining toffee. If the remaining toffee hardens, simply reheat.

The next element is the banana piped with strawberry jam. Start by slicing the bananas on an angle, by cutting each into 3 large pieces, discarding the ends. Slice on an angle for shape. Using a straw, pipe a hole through the centre, large enough to fill with jam. With a piping bag or a as I did, a plastic freezer bag, pipe jam into the banana. The last thing left to do is seal by rolling in the reheated remaining toffee. This will seal and stop the banana from oxidising too fast. You can try covering lightly in cling film until plated. Whip cream with a little icing sugar.

The last step is to plate. Start with a big lick of caramel and then add ingredients around the centre. Halve the strawberries too. Finish by placing the cage over the top – the last step is purely creative and your work of art. Serve cream in a small dish on the side, and sprinkle remaining crushed pistachios over the plate. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Steamed Black Bean Pork

I’ve been eating this dish for as long as I can remember. Steamed black bean pork is a Cantonese staple served in the home and also at some restaurants, mostly yum cha. It takes many subtle flavours to empower pork ribs and a distinct black bean. There are two substitutes for pork; the first is chicken, using wings or breast and the second is tofu, as a vegan option. I like tofu puffs, bought at Asian grocer. Also always ask the butcher for female pig, the male has a pungent, dirty smell. It costs no extra for you or the butcher!

Chinese black beans are readily available in sealed packages at any Asian grocer, always! My favourite thing about Chinatown other than eating was trawling through Asian grocers, #gaysianatheart

There is nothing more to this dish than good marinating and intuition, and it’s easy done. My parents never use measurements for this recipe and I do the same, but for the purpose of this post, I’ve given my personal approximations. I like robust, salty and tender goodness. Always look at what you’re cooking with and cook with feeling, altering the measurements to your taste.

Serves four
250g  pork spare ribs
2 tbsp black beans
¼ cup soy sauce
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
2 shallot/scallions diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp white sugar
½ tsp salt

Start by placing the semi hydrated black beans in warm water for five to ten minutes. Combine all ingredients except the corn flour with pork and massage the meat. The sugar will tenderise the meat and remove the slightly bitter edge of the black beans with a subtle sweetness. The last ingredient to add is the corn flour; this will thicken the remaining sauces and coat the pork.

Leave the pork to rest and marinate, allowing the flavours to meld – this is key!! Once marinated steam for 30 to 40 minutes or until tender and cooked through. Thick, dark green Chinese vegetables are always really nice to pair with this dish. They are really clean, but intense with natural flavour.