Thursday, July 30, 2009

French toast with cinnamon pears

We have timidly begun a new tradition in my home.

For the past three weeks, each Thursday, my father and brother make the 2min drive to my home to have breakfast with my husband and myself (and our dog Yoshi). Although they struggle to make it here by 10am (which I personally don't consider to be that early, but I guess I didn't inherit my family's 'vampire' gene), they eventually come rolling in, still sleepy eyed, to feast on treats with us.

The past two Thursdays I have made pancakes, but today I thought I'd deviate a little and make french toast instead, with some fruit thrown in for good measure (and nutrients).

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 15mins to make 8 slices of french toast and poached pears.
total: 20mins

taste: 4.5/5. As I guessed, everyone loved these. Anything that involves sugar, maple syrup and fruit tends to be a hit. The toast was spongy, soft and crunchy whilst the pears were softly firm with just a hint of cinnamon, the syrup they were cooked in went beautifully with the dish. I made the following modifications:
  • I used sour dough white bread
  • I used around 1/4cup maple syrup
I wish I had added some star anise or cloves to spice it up a little as I felt the cinnamon was too subtle for me, I prefer my pears a little spicier.

would I make it again: Yes, with some extra spicing up and an extra pear.

recipe: French toast with spiced pears

Monday, July 27, 2009

Buttermilk cinnamon pancakes with maple vanilla apples

My family are pancake lovers, and we have no qualms about sharing our love for pancakes with everyone who comes to eat with us.

As we have eaten pancakes for as long as I can remember, the only tricky thing is finding ways to spice them up so that we will never get bored of eating them (I always ordered the Alice in Wonderland from the Pancake Parlour for around 16 years before I tried something else, so I guess it would take a lot for me to get bored of pancakes).

As you know I loved the chai buttermilk pancakes I made a while ago, but I felt like something fruity and less spicy, so I played Dr Frankenstein and merged this recipe with this recipe and ended up with the pancake hybrid you see before you. I wasn't even going to post this as it was a last minute idea, but after everyone starting cooing over them I took a quick snap of my plate.

Buttermilk cinnamon pancakes with maple vanilla apples

2 eggs
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
4 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled (omitted, didn't need it)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

for the apples:
2 granny smith apples sliced
2tbs butter
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup maple syrup
1tsp vanilla seed paste

Whisk together buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla until combined. Mix together all the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until combine. Set aside and let it rest for 5-10mins.

For apples, melt butter in a non-stick pan, add sliced apples and cook 3mins per side. Add cinnamon, vanilla paste and maple syrup and simmer for 5mins. Remove apples and reserve syrup.

Heat a nonstick pan and melt a little butter. Add 1/4cup amounts of pancake mixture, place 1 apple slice in the centre of the pancakes. Cook 1-2mins per side until the pancake is bubbling and then flip and cook for a further 1-2mins. Serve pancakes with leftover maple apples, the apple syrup from the pan and a dollop of cream.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 16mins to make around 12 pancakes.
total: 36mins.

taste: 5/5. Everyone really loved these, my brother even ate them without the extra apples, syrup and cream and still loved them. The apples really are the star of this dish along with the syrup.

would I make it again: Yes.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Triple chocolate praline tart

Do you ever have those days where you say, to hell with it, I'm going all out?

Well today I was feeling decadent, and decided that for dinner with my family I would make rich, creamy, over-the-top foods, sure to satisfy your taste buds and no doubt expand your waistline. My kind of food :). To follow a Cauliflower Pecorino soup (highly recommended) I thought what better than a TRIPLE chocolate tart - you can never have too much of a good thing.

I apologise for the photos but as you can imagine, everyone dived into this and I had to take photos of the remnants that managed to survive the next day. As a whole tart it really is gorgeous looking, the chocolate ganache topping is super shiny (obviously without the cling wrap marks in the photos). To make it a little snazzier you could probably put a little gold leaf in the center.

ease: 3.5/5. Takes a long time.
prep time: 2 hours & 35mins - to the blind baking stage.
cooking time: 5 hours - they recommend 1 hour for the final chilling stage but after 2 hours it still wasn't set, I would probably recommend 3 hours.
total: 7 hours & 35mins.

taste: 5/5. Oh My God - this tart is freakin' divine! Everyone loved it, as they would. It is a chocolate lovers dream. The bitter chocolate crust is like a cookie in texture, it gives way to crunchy, hazelnut toffee milk chocolate center which melts on your tongue upon impact, and then the bittersweet ganache topping comes in and brings it all together. It is the sort of tart you keep making trips to the fridge for. Well worth the HUGE amount of chilling time.
I made the following modifications:
  • I used Lindt milk chocolate
  • I did not bother to roast and skin the hazelnuts
  • I used a raw cocoa (could not find Dutch process)
  • A side note: my crust was a little dry and crumbly, but I kept it as written.
would I make it again: Do you need to ask?

recipe: Triple chocolate praline tart

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Eggnog pancakes

During free periods at school I devoured the books, and once the movies began to play I eagerly lined up with my Harry Potter-loving girlfriends.

Once I met my husband I tried to persuade him to give the movies a go, to no avail.
Five years later I finally convinced him to come along and watch The Half-blood Prince. Knowing that he would most likely drag his feet and mumble about 'being bored' I thought I would perk him up with some pancakes, and what better than boozy pancakes to try and make someone more open minded.

Unfortunately I have not converted him; seeing bits and pieces of other Potter films he had been looking forward to some big duels and fight scenes (and dragons), this particular installment however, is lacking in that area so hubby was underwhelmed. Oh well.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 15mins for 16 small pancakes.
total: 20mins.

taste: 3/5. The pancakes themselves were a little dry, despite me adding an additional 1/4cup of milk. The brandy was very faint and the nutmeg softly spiced them. To up the flavour I added 1tbs of brandy to the whipped cream and grated a generous amount of nutmeg on top which definitely punched up the eggnog flavour. I would add the brandy and nutmeg to a tried and true regular pancake recipe rather than this one. The maple syrup also works wonderfully with the boozy, heady flavours.

would I make it again: No - not this particular pancake recipe.

recipe: Eggnog pancakes - from Super Food Ideas - December 2005, Page 78

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gratineed chicken in cream sauce

As you may have noticed, the amount of savoury dishes on my blog seems to have waned.

Winter sunsets are dreadfully early, and by 5pm you are closing your blinds and switching on artificial lights. As you can imagine, this makes for horrible photos, especially sans flash. However, I thought that if a dish rated a 4 or higher should be posted so that others can make and enjoy it too. I love finding savoury dishes on other blogs as I do have to make dinner each night and let's face it, whilst I love pancakes, I couldn't possibly eat them for tea each night..well, hubby couldn't.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 30mins.
total: 40mins.

taste: 4/5. This was unctuous, creamy and cheesy. Make sure you use a cheese you like as it is the strongest flavour - I used a Comte Gruyere (non-aged). As I left some of the herbs in there were pockets of flavour - the carrots became a little sweet and the chicken was very tender. Everything went together beautifully. I am greedy when it comes to sauces and I love to have lots to spare. So as usual I halved the vegetables and chicken but kept everything else the same. I made the following modifications:
  • I kept the herbs in and just removed the leaves and twigs later
  • I omitted the peas (hubby hates them)
  • I used around 6 french shallots instead of the frozen onions
  • I didn't bother peeling the potatoes
would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Gratineed chicken in cream sauce (Poulet a la Fermiere)

Monday, July 13, 2009

Chai spiced buttermilk pancakes

I always feel a little disoriented on Mondays.

Having had my weekday routine bucked by my do-nothing weekend, it is always difficult getting back into the swing of things on a Monday. However many 'to-do' lists I may write, they never get completed on a Monday.

Today I thought I would forget the lists and just try to do as much as I could or wanted to do. So far that has included some dishes, a catch up with my Mum, one load of laundry, some light vacuuming and a few meals; quite decent for a Monday actually.

Since I was taking it slow this morning I had plenty of time to make whatever I felt like; and today that was fragrantly spiced, plump pancakes.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 7mins.
cooking time: 20mins to make 12 pancakes.
total: 27mins.

taste: 4.5/5. These were sublime! The pancakes are quite thick and moist and absolutely packed with spices. I found the flavour of the tea was the strongest followed by the other spices. I had this with maple syrup and it was the perfect accompaniment as it further enhanced the spices. On their own they are only very subtly sweet. I made the following modifications:
  • I used a vanilla chai tea
  • I doubled the spices
  • I added an extra 2 tbs of milk
  • I used 1tsp vanilla essence
would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Chai spiced buttermilk pancakes

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Semolina porridge with orange rhubarb compote

I awoke this morning to the ill tempered wind, banging at my window like a toddler in the throws of a surly tantrum, trying to get my attention.

The clouds hung low, their gloomy sullenness carved into their bulging gunmetal faces; obviously in cahoots with the petulant wind. Together they stomped and wailed, whipping nature's debris into miniature whirlwinds and dousing the house with lashings of wet, unpleasant showers.

Even my adventurous dog, accustomed to the occasional drenching, did not want to venture outside during this episode. With very little light sneaking through the clouds domination over the sky, we all felt a little dormant and dull, huddled in our couch corners like hermits in their shell.

My favourite antidote to awaken us from our wintry slumber is a bowl of something warm, sweet and mushy. I didn't feel like oats today so I thought a more refined substitute was in order. Semolina and I go way back, and to this day, it has never failed to cheer me up.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 12mins.
total: 15mins.

taste: 4.5/5. The comforting warmth of porridge with a much more luxuriously smooth texture. I absolutely loved this (my porridge hating hubby on the other hand only rated it a 3). The texture was soft and a little toothsome, with hints of orange zest and sweet honey. I made the following modifications:
  • I only used 1/4c honey as I didn't want it too sweet
  • I added 1/2tsp vanilla bean paste
  • I used 1/2 an orange zested
To add more flavour to the vanilla, honeyed semolina with hints of orange bitterness, I topped it with this orange rhubarb compote. I felt the tart and tangy rhubarb went beautifully with the mellow, sweet semolina.

would I make it again: Yes - hubby will just have to suck it up. I would also add some cinnamon and cloves next time to give it some warmth for winter as well as a whole vanilla bean.

recipe: semolina porridge with candied cumquats

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Orange-flavored strawberry & rhubarb clafoutis

Aside from meat, most seafoods and coriander leaves, there's nothing else that I cannot/will not eat.

Although I am lactose intolerant (I still eat small servings of yoghurt or custards - the belly pain is worth it) I can wolf down a multitude of baked goods and suffer little more than an overextended belly (and slight guilt).
My sister-in-law and father-in-law on the other hand a sensitive to wheat and dairy products, which usually means I have to look a little harder to find a dessert that will please everyone. Luckily, there is such a multitude of gluten and dairy free recipes out there these days, especially on blogs, that make finding a recipe so much easier (and fun).

La Tartine Gourmande is brilliant for all sweet things with alternative tart crusts and fillings - I have already bookmarked many more for family gatherings. Speical diets no longer mean boring or tasteless food.

On a side note - whilst I was preparing dessert I had the pleasure of viewing my gorgeous ballerina pink Camelia's, one of the perks of Winter.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 50mins.

taste: 4/5. I couldn't find almond flour so I substituted 1/4c almond meal and 1/4c spelt flour - the clafoutis ended up being a little on the 'gelatinous' side - the parts that weren't covered in fruit were a little chewy and jelly-like in texture. Other than that the combination of the tartly sweet strawberries and rhubarb with hints of bitter orange was lovely. Just the right amount of sweetness to balance out the acidity.

would I make it again: Yes - I might try to source the almond flour or perhaps substitute with something else.

recipe: Orange-flavored strawberry & rhubarb clafoutis

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Banana & maple cake

ease: 5/5.

prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 40mins.
total: 45mins.

taste: 4/5. Super moist cake with a nice subtle sweetness. I added 1tsp cinnamon and I still found the cake on its own a little bland. You definitely need the icing to add flavour - as I had no cream cheese I just mixed about 1/4c mascarpone with 8g melted butter, 1tbs maple syrup and 1tsp vanilla and then spread it on the cake whilst still warm so that it melted and gave it a nice glaze. I made the following alterations:
  • 2 bananas
  • 2 3/4cup plain flour (white/unbleached)
  • I used 3/4cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
would I make it again: Yes - I would add 2tsp cinnamon and 1/2tsp nutmeg just to give the cake a little more spice and flavour.

recipe: Banana cake

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pork with caramelised pear and parsnip

Sniffle, sniffle. Aaaa-chooo.

That is the sound of cold and flu season.
Earlier this year, the country was in a little bit of a panic over the H1N1 virus (formerly known as Swineflu). However, the hype soon slowed down as many who had contracted the virus, appeared to recover well. That particular strain aside, there are many others which have seemed to bring down many of my friends and family (hubby included). So far I have managed to stay healthy despite being surrounded by mountains of tissues and sneezing people (public transport really is one big mucus-fest, which is why I avoid it at this time of the year).

In my effort to help my sick husband get better, I thought fried cheese sandwiches would not be the most beneficial lunch today, and as he has a strong aversion to soup, I thought perhaps some parsnip, pear, lemon and Pork might be a suitable alternative.

ease: 5/5.

prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 25mins.
total: 35mins.

taste: 2.5/5. Unfortunately the pears and parsnip did not caramelise before the pork was cooked through. The sweetness was then overpowered by the lemon and the pork ended up tasting a little bland. I halved the pork chops, pear and parsnip but kept everything else the same - so there was quite a lot of juices in the pan as well - but despite that some of the parsnip was a little dry.

would I make it again: No - I don't think 25mins is enough to caramelise the veg before the pork dries out - especially as it is browned before going in the oven. And overall the dish was a little too simple flavour wise.

recipe: pork with caramelised pear and parsnip

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Jamón and Manchego baked eggs

My house is pretty darn clean today.

This morning I woke up with steadfast determination to get a lot done. Normally I write a list of what to do and when to do it, but today I thought I'll just do whatever I feel like doing. That entailed a lot of laundry and a big scrub down of the kitchen and bathroom with some light vacuuming thrown in - and all before lunch :).

Right now I have that glow of a person who has managed to accomplish much with plenty of time left over for leisure. Apart from folding up some clothes once they dry, I think I shall only make a tart for tomorrow and some dinner tonight. My biggest dilemma is what to do with the rest of my free time - perhaps some reading or even a jigsaw puzzle with my puzzle-lovin husband.

Happy 4th of July to all in America.

ease: 5/5.
prep time:
cooking time: 12mins.
total: 26mins.

taste: 2.5/5. The boys did not like this at all. The bread became soggy (I misunderstood the instructions - I think you are meant to line the bottom with 2 slices of bread, I only used 1) and my brother didn't like the sour taste from the vinegar. They didn't feel it went well and the texture was obviously unappealing. I only ate the Manchego which was very lovely - don't waste it in this dish. Such a shame, I thought it would have been nice.

would I make it again: No.

recipe: Jamón and Manchego baked eggs

Friday, July 3, 2009

Blueberry and coconut friands

Seeing smiles upon everyone's faces after wolfing down something you made is a wonderful feeling.

Whilst most of the recipes I try are liked, some don't go down so well. The last and first friand I made was such a success I thought I'd give another recipe a try, this time with blueberries rather than mango.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 8mins.
cooking time: 15mins.

total: 23mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Everyone loved these - some found them a touch dry, but I think that was just due to the texture of the coconut (or maybe because I overcooked them for a minute), as I found them to have a gorgeous crispy, chewy exterior with a moist, fluffy interior dotted with tart but sweet bursts of blueberries. I used 7-8 frozen blueberries rather than 4-5 - probably could have used a touch more. It made seven 1/2cup friands.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Blueberry and coconut friands from Notebook: - January 2007, Page 141

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pumpkin & cinnamon scones

There is something so 'traditional' and homely about a scone.

Having a great grandmother from Liverpool, I grew up eating scones with cream and strawberry jam whenever I visited. Straight from the oven they are divine and ever so comforting. I always loved to tear them in two and watch the steam escape before slathering on the condiments and then deciding which half to eat first.

Whilst I have had the regular white scones and also the raisin scone, I haven't tried anything else. The idea of pumpkin sounded wonderful as it is a vegetable I am none too fond of in its singular form, but baked into something sweet, I will gladly eat it. It is also a great way to get some veggies into my hubby without complaints.

ease: 4.5/5. Keep an eye on your water level when steaming your pumpkin - I almost ended up with smoked pumpkin.
prep time:
35mins - mostly to steam pumpkin.
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 50mins.

taste: 4/5. Three pumpkin-haters thought these were delectable. The pumpkin adds a subtle sweetness whilst the cinnamon is barely noticeable, more a whisper of spice. They were soft and fluffy with a slightly crunchy outer shell and a beautiful shade of golden yellow. We drowned ours with thickened cream and raspberry jam - perfect afternoon tea.

would I make it again: Yes - perhaps with a little nutmeg too.

recipe: Pumpkin & cinnamon scones