Tuesday, June 29, 2010

French apple & cinnamon turnover

I'm being held prisoner by H2O.

The rain is falling like jails bars around my home, merely one second spent outside of my confines and I am drenched to the bone. The rainbow lorikeets beyond my window cling to the barren tree branches like closed buds, huddled so tightly together that two appear as one.

It's 'apple pie' weather.

On sodden afternoons when chocolate doesn't appeal to me, I crave hot, stewed apples flecked with cinnamon surrounded by a moat of clotted cream. Most often, apples alone will do, but today I also yearned for crispy pastry puffed as high as the stacked mattresses from the Princess and the Pea. My darling partner also reflected the same sentiment so I began to peel and dice, and to stir and roll immediately. We cuddled and intertwined our limbs like the braids of a rope whilst the oven worked its magic to deliver us our parcels of warmth and comfort.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 24mins
cooking time: 15mins.
total: 39mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Rustically delicious.

I knew before I'd even made them that hubby would go gaga over these - he just loves cooked apples and pastry. The apple were soft and supple against the flaky, puffy pastry that rose golden around its fruit-filled centre. The only change I made was to add a dash of fragrant cinnamon as I believe all apples taste better with a sprinkling of cinnamon to warm their tartness. The bronzed parcels balance the sweet and tart tastes perfectly. They may be simple and understated, but they are far from plain in flavour - simply satisfying with a dollop of cool vanilla ice cream or double thickened cream.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: French apple turnover

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rose & pistachio nougat

I always stop to smell the roses.

My husband and I, weather permitting, occasionally walk around our neighbourhood to get some fresh air and sunshine. What I love most about these walks (apart from being with my husband, naturally) is the opportunity to smell the dozens of roses growing in people's gardens. There is one house in particular that, with the right breeze, I can smell a block away. The front yard has more roses than blades of grass. The petals beam with every shade of a sunrise and sunset, but to me, the ones that stand out the most, are the blood-red beauties. All operatic in their dramatic shade. Simply breathtaking.

Roses are a triple win for me - they are beautiful to look at, lovely to smell and sublime to eat. I adore rose perfumed foods, they are so heady and intoxicating with their aromatic flavour.

I had excess egg whites (as you do) to use so I searched for a nougat recipe. The minute I found a rose flavoured one my search was over.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 20mins.
cooking time: 3hours setting time.
total: 3 hours & 20mins.

taste: 4/5. As soft and delicate as a floral breeze.

These looked so adorable and sweet and they tasted the same. I used 1tbs and 1tsp rose water rather than rose petals as I wanted the perfume but not the petal. After the saccharine honeyed sweetness the rose came through like a soft whisper and lingered until the crunchy pistachios finished the bite. This nougat wasn't as firm as store bought, the texture was more akin to a fudge which I didn't mind, but I do prefer the chewier kind.

I became addicted to these, and due to their extraordinarily high sugar content, I almost sent myself into a sugar coma. Hubby could only manage half a square at a time.

would I make it again: No - simply because I do not want the sugary temptation - but then again it would make a nice gift...

recipe: Rose petal & pistachio nougat

Monday, June 21, 2010

Baileys pudding parfaits with oatmeal-walnut crunch

Sometimes I feel as if the wind blows only for me.

I love a good breeze; it stirs things around and feels wonderful on the skin. There are exceptions thouhgh; hair down and sticky lip gloss, that's when a breeze can drive a girl crazy. Despite being well into Winter we have had some dry and sunny interludes entice us out from our brick caves.
Thanks to the decent weather, this weekend was filled with a glamorous, late evening birthday, a morning spent with flying orange discs and an afternoon at the gallery accompanied by lunch with new friends - it was a weekend well spent.

As we ate out I hadn't cooked anything except breakfast for the past two days, and it was only after cleaning out the fridge this morning that I noticed one, lone glass goblet lurking forgotten in the back.
With some desserts I am often left with extra servings that I consume the next day, or even later that same night.  This time around I left the extras for my husband, but it seems he forgot about the last one. Although I feel sad that it remained uneaten before heading for its rubbish-bin demise, if I hadn't found it today I would have forgotten to post it as 6 days have passed since it's creation and other dishes photographed since.

After some searching I found the photographs and notes, although one glass remained full it will live on through this post to be reborn in someone else's kitchen.

ease: 3.5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 35mins.
total: 45mins plus 4 hours chilling time.

taste: 3.5/5. Packs a punch.

I'm not sure what to say as I only had one spoonful - as a non-drinker I found it a little too alcoholic, but those who do drink thought it was perfectly balanced and delicious.

I had an issue with the custard, it took around 30mins to get to a decent thickness and even then it wasn't very thick - it was wonderfully smooth though and everyone else thought it tasted great with a noticeable Baileys flavour. The cookies were a little gritty, perhaps less flour and more oats would remedy that whilst the raisins added nice pockets or chewy sweetness.

would I make it again: No - others enjoyed it but I just couldn't eat much due to the alcoholic taste.

recipe: Baileys pudding parfaits with oatmeal-walnut crunch

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chocolate & hazelnut meringue kisses

Time is like a butterfly; chase it and it eludes you, sit still and rest and it will flutter and linger on your skin.
When we need more time there is never enough. On the other hand, on idle days spent sitting in each moment without haste, time slows to the flow of glue rather than sand and you find you have more time than you could possibly use. Some weeks speed past in the space of one yawn whilst others seem to drag behind you, slow to catch up.

This week is the former. I feel as though Friday has been sprung on me like a distant relative knocking on your door, unannounced, and in need of accommodation - I am not quite prepared and a little put out. I suddenly found myself with too many balls to juggle and simply not enough limbs.With May's leftover birthdays spilling into June I find my weekends are gone before they even come and am left trying to find a midweek moment to catch up on weekend rest.

So that is what I did yesterday - relaxed, read and baked to my heart's content like I would on a Sunday. And that is how Thursday became Thunday.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 18mins.
cooking time: 50mins.
total: 1hour & 8mins.

taste: 4/5. We stand divided.

Whilst these reminded me of the bliss that is Nutella, all chocolate and hazelnuts, I didn't think they were anything special, ok and a little addictive, but nothing that had me moaning mmmmm.
R on the other hand could not get enough. He devoured almost 50 of these little bites within three days and then demanded I make more. I think he has found his crack... As he rated these 5/5 and I 3/5 I settled on 4. I should point out that others also liked them, L though not as much as R.

The first batch I made were similar to the originals, but the second batch (the ones you see above) I added a little more cocoa to get a bigger chocolate flavour, they also were a little chewier which I liked.

would I make it again: Yes - I already made them twice in one week due to spousal peer pressure...

recipe: Chocolate & hazelnut meringue kisses

Monday, June 14, 2010

Orange creme brulee

The night was short.

Our heads had barely begun to fill with dreams when Four Am called for us to wake. The lights stung our eyes as we walked like medicated patients to the lounge room; our heads now filling with dreams of green and gold. It's World Cup time baby.

Our original plans had consisted of sitting in an English-style pub surrounded by exuberant fans and hearty meals. Unfortunately an SMS from a friend at 2am laid those plans to waste as our destination was already at full capacity. Luckily for us we had placed a standing reservation for two on our couch as a backup.

Sadly we trundled back to bed feeling a little defeated, Australia's world cup campaign is not off to a great start, but there is still hope...

Feeling a little worse for wear once I re-awoke at noon, I felt I truly needed to eat my favourite dessert; the heavenly creme brulee. There really are no words to encapsulate the simple joy of cracking through that golden shell into the creamy custard below; every mouthful really is a spoonful of happiness.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 30mins in the oven plus at least 6 hours of cooling time, overnight is even better.
total: 40mins plus cooling time.

taste: 4/5. The texture is divine.

The texture for me was spot on; it was cool, and impossibly smooth with a wonderful subtle vanilla sweetness.

The top cracked like a flash of lightening - loud and crisp It crunched delightfully into the luscious custard below like shards of rock into earth.. I used caster sugar for the top as I find it melts and hardens faster and therefore reduces the chance of burning.

The only element I didn't like was the orange. For me the bitterness allayed the sweetness so much that it felt like more of a palate cleanser than a sweet dessert. The orange was a little too robust for my dainty brulee.

would I make it again: Yes - with only the fragrance of a plump vanilla bean next time.

recipe: Orange creme brulee

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Morning muffins

The rain was in a huff today.
It tempestuously whirled up into drenching mists from the black tarmac, creating oceans of showering waves that sprayed the windshield and dazed my view.

Every car yielded to its tantrum and slowed below the speed sign, choosing caution over quickness. The space between us shortened with each kilometre until we crawled to a snails pace as our exits approached. The traffic lights herded us like a strict shepherd to our various destinations as we freely obeyed.

Just as I was driving into a car spot the rain had settled to a quiet sulk, its droplets licking our skin like soft tears.  Dew drops clung to my hair like liquid jewels as I made my way into the tiny reception. Dozens of jars lined the shelves like an abacus; their contents were the shades of a forest. I spied many varieties of mushrooms and herbs, some flowers also, their petals dried and colours paled. They had names I couldn't pronounce with their healing attributes listed beneath like honouring medals. This was my first experience with acupuncture and I was quite nervous. The thought of being a fleshy pin cushion made me uneasy to say the least. But as with most of the unknown, once it loses its mystery, all apprehension and fear leaves with it.
Whilst the needles pricked upon first kiss of the skin, they were only as bothersome as clothes upon your body. Although I feel no more of an immediate difference than that of a short nap, I'm hopeful that they have helped, even if just a little.

Although the rain continues its mood swings, pelting my window with hail stones, nestled warmly in my home I curl up on my couch with a good book and a golden muffin, nibbling on a torn off chunk between each turn of the page.

After reading through the reviews and this post I made quite a few changes to the recipe, so I have written up my version and linked to the original below.

The gorgeous flowers in the background were given to me by my friend Angela, thanks a bunch sweetie!

Morning muffin
makes 12

2 cups spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon (2tsp in future)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar (1/3 white, 1/3 brown) (1/3 brown sugar,1/4 white and 1/4cup maple syrup in future)
2 small carrots (about 2 cups) grated (3 small carrots in future)
3/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup raisins (3/4cup in future)
3 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil (1/2cup in future)
3/4cup plain yoghurt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 Granny Smith apple, grated
1 Gala apple, grated
(+1/4 cup shredded coconut in future)

Preheat oven to 180C. and butter or line 12 muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, and then whisk in the sugars.

Coarsely shred the carrots and chop the pecans. Add the carrots, pecans and raisins to the flour mixture and toss well.

In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yoghurt and vanilla extract. Peel and core the apples and coarsely shred. Stir the shredded apple into the egg mixture and then add to the flour mixture, stirring until batter is just combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups and bake until and golden and the tester comes out clean, 20-25mins.

Cool muffins in cups on racks 5 minutes before turning out onto racks to cool completely.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 25mins (I slightly overcooked mine).
total: 35mins.

taste: 3.5/5. It's like breakfast in a muffin.

This is a substantial muffin. Each mouthful is different and delights you with either crunchy nuts, sweet raisins, tart apple or soft carrot. The batter is spongy and laced with warm cinnamon and heady nutmeg which support the fruit and nuts beautifully. I think with a few more tweaks I will have myself a super muffin.

Next time around I would increase the cinnamon to 2tsp, add an extra small carrot and up the raisins to 3/4cup. I would also add 1/4cup of shredded coconut and increase the oil to 1/2cup. I think I would also decrease the white sugar by 1/4cup and add 1/4cup of maple syrup instead.

Have a play around to suit your preferences.

would I make it again: Yes - with further modifications.

recipe: Carrott muffins.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Haloumi, dill & zucchini fritters

I spoke too soon.

Winter came down on us all heavy with eerie fog and unrelenting rains. We woke with frosted noses and breath that billowed and misted before us. The cold was so crisp we dared not speak should our voices shatter its chill. The only way to stop Winter from freezing us solid was to wrap ourselves in a thousand layers of woolen knits and feather doonas.

Spindled like a caterpillar in a cocoon I could only bring one hand out into the icy air to feed myself, therefore finger food was the winning choice for days too cold to eat two-handed food.

I didn't expect much from the humble fritter but I was unexpectedly pleased with these delicate morsels; eaten until the central heating made it possible to come out of hibernation in search of larger cutlery-required meals.

ease: 4/5. 
prep time: 11mins.
cooking time: 16mins. 4mins per side.
total: 27mins.

taste: 3.5/5. Good for a zucchini fritter.

I have had a lot of trouble with fritters in the past, mostly due to their tendency to fall apart once they hit the hot oil. These somehow miraculously remained intact.

The zucchini added a cool, subtly grassy flavour that helped to tone down the saltiness of the squeaky haloumi and acidity of the lemon. The dill added a wonderful flavour and the texture overall was quite pleasant. They weren't show stoppers but we did all help ourselves to two or three during dinner.

Despite squeezing as hard as I could, I found that whilst the first fritters were frying some zucchini liquid had pooled in the remaining batter. My step-mother told me her trick is to grate the zucchini the night before and place it in a bowl so that the next morning all of the liquid has pooled and you merely tip it out and use the drained zucchini.

I omitted the spring onions.

Would I make it again: Yes unless I find a better zucchini fritter recipe.

recipe: Haloumi, dill & zucchini fritters

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Paprika & maple chicken with pear

The change came like the turning of the last minute into midnight.

Autumn made its final bow and gave the stage to Winter in the twilight hours of our sleep. If you did not know the date you would think nothing has changed. The sun still shone through its chilly veil in the morning hours whilst the leaves continued to perform their pirouettes from their barren stems down to the dew-drenched ground. The first day of Winter looks remarkably like the last weeks of Autumn. Soon enough it's signature sleet and rain will colour our skies grey and cheeks ashen.

Until then I will eschew the hearty stews and comforting carbohydrates for light dinners served with salads; although the dates have signalled a seasonal change, the weather and mood remains the same. My Autumn lingers a little longer...

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 7mins.
cooking time: 10mins.
total: 17mins.

taste: 4.5/5. Finger lickin' chicken.

Hubby adored this - all three times I have made it. The spicy paprika and warming maple play wonderfully with the piney rosemary and juiciness of the sweet pear. The balsamic and mustard glaze bring further heat and sweet acidity; combined with the peppery rocket they make a great flavour combination for the chicken.

I subbed the baby spinach for arugula (rocket) and chose to slice the pear into wedges to retain more juice and substance. I also doubled the amount of marinade and glaze as you can always have more, and used one pear per person.

would I make it again: Yes.

recipe: Paprika & maple chicken escalopes with pear