Monday, December 27, 2010

Mango Sago Dessert

This is a nice and refreshing dessert to have on a hot summer's day!



Ingredients

2 mangoes
400ml mango juice
mango essence (optional)
125ml evaporated milk
100g sago pearls
250ml water
4-6 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp tapioca flour or cornflour
1 tbsp cold water
extra 50ml water

Preparation of sago pearls
  1. Soak sago pearls in cold water till they turn translucent (about an hour or two).
  2. Boil the pearls in 3 cups water until it turns totally transparent.
  3. Pour the cooked pearls into a sieve and wash it with cold tap water to remove the starch.
Method
  1. In a small saucepan, boil 250ml water, add sugar and stir until sugar dissolves
  2. Mix tapioca flour with 1 tbsp water and pour into the syrup and stir over low heat until mixture is smooth.
  3. Take syrup and tapioca flour mixture off the heat and leave it to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, cut the sides of the mango and cube them.
  5. Scrape the remaining mango and put in a blender with 50ml water. Blend until pureed then put aside.
  6. Add blended mango, cubed mango, mango juice and evaporated milk into the syrup solution then stir.
  7. Add sago pearls and stir. If too thick, add a bit more mango juice.
  8. Chill before serving.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Red Bean Glutinous Rice Ball/Lo Mai Chee

Tonight we had a prayer and praise night at our church and were asked to bring a dessert from our country to share with others afterwards. Since I'm of Chinese descent I decided to make red bean glutinous rice balls otherwise known as "lo mai chee" in Chinese. Their texture can be described as soft and chewy at the same time. Different fillings can be used like peanut butter, finely chopped peanuts and sugar, green bean paste, custard, pandan as well as fruit fillings like mango and strawberries.

For my mango glutinous rice ball recipe click here.

Makes approx. 21 pieces


Ingredients

200g glutinous rice flour
1 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp Santan powder (coconut cream powder)
300ml hot water
½ cup - ¾ cup caster sugar
2 tbsp corn oil
red bean paste (pre-bought or homemade)
½ cup dessicated coconut, for coating
Patty cases

Method
  1. Sieve glutinous rice flour, corn flour and Santan powder into a big mixing bowl.
  2. Dissolve sugar in 300ml of hot water. Pour this into the flour mixture and mix till smooth and well blended.  Add the oil and mix until the mixture is free of lumps and smooth.
  3. Strain batter into a greased tray/bowl and steam on high heat for 15 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling by rolling out the red bean paste into small balls- I use approx 1 tsp of red bean paste to make 1 ball.
  5. Remove tray/bowl from steamer and stir the cooked dough with a flat plastic knife or a pair of chopsticks. Leave dough aside to cool. NB: the dough needs to still be warm in order for it be pliable, so don't cool it for too long, just long enough for it to be handled with your hands.
  6. Wear a pair of plastic gloves and grease it with some oil. Take a 25g-30g piece of dough and flatten it into a round disc (approx the size of your palm), and wrap the red bean paste balls. Seal the edges tightly and shape it into a round ball. 
  7. Coat/roll the shaped glutinous rice balls with desiccated coconut. Dust off the excess coconut and place inside a small patty case.
  8. Serve glutinous rice balls chilled or at room temperature.
Notes & Tips

Add 2 tablespoons green tea powder and a few drops green food colouring to the batter to make green tea flavoured glutinous rice balls

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Caesar Salad

I went to a friend's baby shower today and was asked to bring along a salad so I decided to make a Caesar salad as it's fairly simple to throw together and well liked amongst most people. You can also add chicken pieces to this salad to turn it into a chicken caesar salad. For my chicken caesar salad recipe, click here.


Ingredients

2 eggs, hard boiled, cut into slices
8 bacon rashers, rind removed, cut crossways into thin strips
a handful of croutons
2 baby cos lettuce, leaves washed, dried and coarsely chopped
300ml Caesar salad dressing
40g Parmesan cheese, shaved 

Method
  1. Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until crisp.
  2. Arrange the lettuce, eggs and croutons on a serving platter. Drizzle with the Caesar salad dressing and sprinkle with bacon and shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
Notes & Tips

Use a salad spinner to get rid of excess water from your salad leaves

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Christmas Pudding Truffles

I brought these Christmas pudding truffles along with my mini Christmas puddings to a recent women's evangelistc event at my church. These truffles are just so adorable and unbelievably quick and easy to make. Simple yet effective :)

I didn't have any spearmint leaf lollies, so I improvised and used fresh mint leaves instead which I found gave the truffles a nice minty taste and freshness. Unfortunately though, because I put together these truffles the night before, the mint leaves wilted so I would suggest that if you plan to use fresh mint leaves, serve on the same day for a nicer presentation. You could probably make these truffles a couple of hours in advance and just leave in the fridge until ready to serve.


Makes 24

Ingredients

200g white chocolate melts
2 pkts Arnott's Royals dark chocolate biscuits
24 Jaffas
Spearmint leaves, cut into smaller leaves

Method
  1. Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water). Stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate melts and is smooth.
  2. Drizzle the melted white chocolate over each biscuit and allow to drip down the side to resemble custard flowing over the pudding.  
  3. Place a Jaffa on top and a small spearmint leaf each side of the Jaffa and secure in the melted chocolate.
Notes & Tips

Refrigerate the biscuits prior to decorating especially if you are assembling them on a hot day. This will prevent the 'decorations' from slipping off and your chocolate biscuits from melting.

When topping puddings with 'custard', work in batches of 5 at a time so the 'custard' doesn't set before adding the Jaffas.

Try adding some vegetable oil to the white chocolate while melting, as it makes the chocolate runnier, making it easier to make the effect of custard running down the pudding. It also makes the chocolate shiny when set, so it looks nicer. I added approx. 1 tsp oil for every 100g of chocolate.

Mini Christmas Puddings

We had a women's evangelistic event at my church today- there was a short evangelistic talk about the prodigal son followed by an afternoon of decorating baubles. To keep with the Christmas mood and festivity, I brought along these mini Christmas puddings as well as some Christmas pudding truffles. They proved to be a real hit with the women at church :)


Makes approx. 35 truffles

Ingredients

800g pkt light fruit cake, coarsely chopped
100g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp brandy
200g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
Red and Green glace cherries, thinly sliced, to decorate

Method
  1. Process the fruitcake in a food processor until fine crumbs form
  2. Place the dark chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water). Stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate melts and is smooth. Add the melted chocolate and brandy to the cake crumbs and process until well combined.
  3. Line a tray with non-stick baking paper. Roll 1 tbsp of cake mixture into a ball. Place on the prepared tray. Repeat with remaining cake mixture. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm.
  4. Meanwhile, place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan half-filled with simmering water (make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water). Stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate melts and is smooth.
  5. Drizzle the melted white chocolate over each truffle. Top with the cherries.
Notes & Tips

When topping puddings with 'custard', work in batches of 5 at a time so the 'custard' doesn't set before adding the cherries

Try adding some vegetable oil to the white chocolate while melting, as it makes the chocolate runnier, making it easier to make the effect of custard running down the pudding. It also makes the chocolate shiny when set, so it looks nicer. I added approx. 1 tsp oil for every 100g of chocolate.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin & Red Lentil Soup

 Recipe from Delicious Vegetarian Food, page 67

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 long red chilli, seeded and chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
500g butternut pumpkin, chopped
350g orange sweet potato, chopped
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock
½ cup red lentils
1 tablespoon tahini

Method
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the chilli and onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Reduce the heat to low, add the pumpkin and sweet potato and cook, covered, for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Increase the heat to high, add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the lentils and cook, covered, for 7 minutes, or until tender.
  3. Blend the soup in batches in a blender, food processor or by using a stick blender. Add the tahini and blend until smooth. Return to the saucepan and gently heat until warmed through. Garnish with chilli and serve with bread.
Notes & Tips

The soup can be made up to a day ahead. Keep covered with plastic wrap in the refrigerator and reheat in a saucepan or in the microwave.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Honey Soy Chicken Wings

Recipe adapted from Woolworths Fresh Magazine November 2009, issue 45 page 26 

Ingredients

1kg chicken mid wings
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup ketcap manis
1-2 tbs honey
¼ tsp Chinese five-spice powder (optional)
1-2 garlic clove, crushed

Method
  1. Prick the flesh of the chicken all over with a fork to allow the marinade to penetrate.
  2. Combine soy sauce, ketcap manis, honey, five-spice powder and garlic in a shallow dish.
  3. Add wing pieces and turn to coat with marinade. These can be left overnight if you have time.
  4. Preheat oven to 200°C. Arrange chicken pieces into a roasting pan lined with baking paper in a single layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cooked through and golden.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Won Tons

Won tons are great to freeze when making a big batch. When I'm feeling lazy or tired and I want a quick and nutritious meal, I take a box of won tons straight out of the freezer, pop it into some boiling stock and 5 minutes later, it's ready to be eaten.

There are many techniques used to fold won tons. I've even seen some recipe books of chefs folding won tons the same way as tortellini! Whilst the tortellini method may look pretty, it's not the traditional way of folding won tons! The method that I have described below is the best in terms of maximising storage space for a freeze container. 


Ingredients

1 pkt, wonton wrappers
6-8 cups chicken stock
1 bunch Asian greens
1 small bowl of water (to seal the wonton wrappers)

Wonton filling:

200g pork mince
500g prawns, chopped
2 pieces dried cloud ear fungus
3 tablespoons corn flour
4 teaspoons light soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar


Method

Pour boiling water over the fungus and soak for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and chop finely.

Mix the pork mince, prawns, fungus, cornflour, light soy sauce and sugar together in a large bowl then cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours.

Place 1 wonton wrapper on a clean surface. Place 1 teaspoon of filling into the centre. Brush edges of the won ton wrappers with a little water using the tip of your finger or a pastry brush. Fold the won ton wrapper diagonally in half to form a triangle. Press edges together. Fold base corners of triangle over each other to form an open envelope. Fold back the top of the envelope to form a small rectangle. Repeat using remaining wrappers and pork mixture.


Bring stock to the boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Drop wontons, in batches, into the boiling stock. Boil, uncovered, for 4-5 minutes or until wontons float and filling is cooked through.

Remove to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Cover to keep warm.

Just before serving add Asian greens to boiling stock. Cook for 30 seconds or until just wilted. Divide wontons between serving bowls. Ladle over stock and Asian greens. Serve.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Wasabi Mashed Potatoes

    I love wasabi and I love mashed potatoes, so what the heck, why not combine the two?


    Serves 4 as a side dish

    Ingredients

    700g potatoes, quartered
    2 tablespoons butter
    6 tablespoons milk
    1 teaspoon – 1 tablespoon wasabi paste (adjust to your taste)
    1 stalk green onion, thinly sliced
    1 tablespoon soy sauce

    Method
    1. Place the potatoes in a pot and cover with cold water. 
    2. Bring the pot to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. To check, pierce a potato with a paring knife. If the knife slides easily in and out, the potatoes are done. 
    3. Drain and return the potatoes to the pot. 
    4. Smash the potatoes with a fork or potato masher. 
    5. Add the butter, milk and wasabi paste.
    6. Mix to incorporate but don’t mix over-mix otherwise they’ll be pasty. 
    7. Portion out the potatoes on plates, throw on some green onions and a dribble of soy sauce. Voila!

    Tuesday, October 5, 2010

    Chocolate Sponge Cake

    Ingredients

    4 room temperature eggs, separated

    ½ cup caster sugar
    1 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
    ½ cup cornflour
    1 tablespoon plain cake flour
    3 tablespoons cocoa powder

    Method
    1. Preheat oven to 180°C.
    2. Grease and line a 20cm springform tin.
    3. Place egg whites in a large bowl and using an electric mixer beat the eggs on high speed until soft peaks form.
    4. Sift together caster sugar and bicarbonate of soda into a separate bowl.
    5. With the mixer still going, gradually add the caster sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time into the egg whites, beating until dissolved after each addition. When all the sugar is dissolved, turn off mixer.
    6. Add egg yolks and beat again until combined.
    7. In a separate bowl, sift dry ingredients three times to aerate and combine. Sift onto the egg mixture. Use a spatula to gently fold flours into eggs. This is the critical bit, use a ‘light’ hand and don’t over mix.
    8. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform tin and bake for 20 minutes. The sponge is cooked when it has slightly come away from the sides and the top springs back when lightly touched.
    9. Allow cake to cool in pan for 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack lined with baking paper to cool completely.
    10. Use a large serrated knife to cut the cake horizontally into 2 even layers (insert toothpicks at intervals to use as a guide as you cut)
    Notes & Tips for making sponge cake

    The eggs should be at room temperature. 

    Use really fresh eggs

    Eggs and caster sugar must be whisked for a full 10 minutes with an electric whisk, until pale and thick. It’s thick enough when it’s about three times the volume. When you lift out the whisk, the thick mixture that drips off should leave a trail on top of the rest.

    It’s crucial to fold in the flour with a sure but light touch – you don’t want to undo all that good whisking by knocking out the air!


    To make the batter rise as much as possible, the bottom of the pan should have more heat than the top. So bake the cake on the bottom instead of middle shelf.

    White Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Cake

    I made this White Chocolate Strawberry Mousse Cake for my mum's birthday recently :) 


    You’ll need approx 4 punnets strawberries for this recipe

    Ingredients
    1 x Chiffon cake base, cut into 2 even layers
    Click here for the Chiffon Cake Base recipe

    A) 400g strawberry
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    50g caster sugar
    1 tsp strawberry essence
    Extra strawberry sliced and cubed (as much as you like- I used approx 100g)
    Whole strawberry for garnish (optional)

    B) 300ml thickened cream
    3 tbsp icing sugar

    C) 100g white chocolate
    50ml thickened cream

    D) 15g gelatine (approx. 1 tbsp)
    50ml hot water

    E) 100ml thickened cream
    1 tbsp icing sugar, extra

    Method
    1. Clean and hull the strawberries. Add in 50g sugar and let it sit for awhile. Puree them in a blender and put it through the strainer. You should get about 400ml strawberry puree. Stir in 1 tbsp of lemon juice. Reserve 2 tbsp of this puree for the swirl effect.
    2. Whip 300ml thickened cream with 3 tbsp icing sugar till mousse state.
    3. Melt 100g white chocolate then add into 50ml thickened cream.
    4. Dissolve gelatine in hot water, let stand for 5 minutes then stir this into the strawberry puree. 
    5. Add melted white chocolate mixture into the strawberry puree.
    6. Fold the whipped cream into the strawberry chocolate mixture.
    7. Line the cake pan with a slice of the cake base; top it with half the mousse. Add in the strawberry pieces. Press the fruits down gently if needed. Top it with some mousse just enough to cover the strawberry pieces.
    8. Top it with another layer of cake and pour the rest of the mousse on it.
    9. Spoon teaspoonfuls of the reserved puree onto the surface of the mousse on desired positions and swirl it with a toothpick to create the swirls.
    10. Refrigerate for at least 3 - 4 hours.   
    11. Use an electric beater to beat cream and icing sugar in a medium bowl until firm peaks form. 
    12. Place the cream in a piping bag fitted with a 1cm fluted nozzle and pipe rosettes around the edge of the cake. Arrange some strawberries around the cake between the cream rosettes. Cut the cake into wedges to serve. 
    Notes & Tips
    To create the swirl effect on top of the cake, drop one teaspoon of strawberry puree on the cake surface and swirl the puree with a toothpick. I put 1 teaspoon on the middle of the cake and the rest at clock position of 12, 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10.

    *** I lined the inner circumference of my spring form cake pan with plastic cake tape and trimmed my cake to be smaller than the spring form pan. This way the mousse will cover the whole cake and you don’t need to cream the cake but just pipe some rosettes or whatever with some cream and do the rest of the décor on the cake. If you don't have any cake tape, use clear cellophane instead. Moisten one side of the cellophane with some water to help it adhere to the sides of the pan.

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Creme Brulee

    Hubby bought me a blow torch as a wedding anniversary gift. I was so excited to receive another kitchen toy to use and decided to test it out by making some crème brulee. It works pretty well and caramelised the sugar quite nicely :)

    Recipe adapted from Masterchef 2010, Masterclass 4 season 2

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    600ml thickened cream
    1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped
    6 egg yolks
    ¼- ½ cup caster sugar
    120g demerara sugar

    Method

    Step 1: Preheat oven to 120°C.

    Step 2: Place the cream, vanilla bean and seeds in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to scalding point, then remove from heat. Remove vanilla bean and discard.

    Step 3: Whisk together egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl for 2-3 minutes or until thick, creamy and pale.

    Step 4: Pour hot cream over egg yolk mixture, continuing to whisk until well combined. Strain mixture into a jug, evenly divide between 4 x 200ml ramekins.

    Step 5: Carefully place ramekins in a deep roasting pan. Pour boiling water into pan to come halfway up the sides of ramekins. Cover pan loosely with foil.

    Step 6: Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until the custard has just set (custards should still have a slight wobble when done). Remove ramekins from the water bath, and set aside to cool. Refrigerate, covered for at least 4 hours.

    Step 7: Sprinkle demerara sugar evenly over the surface of the baked custards. Run a kitchen blowtorch over the custards, or place under a preheated grill until the sugar bubbles and caramelises. Set aside for 5 minutes or until toffee sets. Serve.

    Notes & Tips

    Placing custards in a dish full of ice keeps the custard chilled and stops it overcooking while the sugar caramelises under the grill (or blowtorch). Placing the custards as close as possible to the grill also speeds the process. If using the grill, position the grill rack as close to grill as possible and preheat it to medium high.

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Stonegrill- Penrith

    Hubby's birthday was coming soon and I wanted to take him out to a nice restaurant for a birthday meal. I looked into a few restaurants but all were booked out for a Saturday night. After doing some more Google searches I stumbled across Stonegrill in Penrith which offers a rather unique interactive dining experience where diners meals are served cooking at the table on super-heated natural volcanic stones. A quick look at the menu and the beautiful photos of all the food and I was on the phone making a reservation.

    Saturday night as we entered the restaurant, we were greeted with the aroma of barbecued meat cooking on a hot grill and a friendly and smiling waitstaff- (probably the owner of the restaurant). We were directed to our seats and after browsing at the menu, we decided to order the set menu as the choices looked good and a 3 course meal for $34 seemed like good value for money. Shortly after placing our orders, our entrees arrived! Great, cause I was starving!

    Entree: Panko Prawns

    For entree, I ordered the panko prawns which were absolutely fantastic. The prawns were crunchy and golden on the outside and cooked to perfection on the inside. The tartare sauce was nice and creamy with just the right notes of sourness from the gherkins and capers.

    Entree: Salt and Pepper Squid

    Hubby ordered the salt and pepper squid which tasted nice. It was lightly battered, crunchy on the outside and not overcooked on the inside, however, it tasted rather ordinary after having eaten the prawns.
    Our drinks also did arrive after the entrees but the waitress was apologetic about it when she brought out the drinks to us.

     Main: Grass Fed Aged Prime Yearling Beef Rump Steak served with vegetables and mushroom sauce

    For the mains, hubby and I both got the rump steak which was presented on a lightly salted hot volcanic stone plate. These special stones, are heated to 400°C and the meals are presented within a protective ceramic serving tray, sided by vegetables or salad and condiments. When your meal arrives, you simply turn over your fresh food selection, then cut it and side-lay two to three portions, allowing these to sear and cook to your liking. Your meal remains hot and enjoyable, allowing you to dine at leisure, with every bite as hot and delicious as the first. As the meat is completely trimmed of fats and no added oils are used, this method of cooking is also quite healthy.

    Main: Grass Fed Aged Prime Yearling Beef Rump Steak with 3 extra prawns served with vegetables and pepper sauce

    The beef steak was so tender, juicy and full of sweet meaty flavour. Hubby also ordered extra prawns with his main ($1 each per prawn). You can also ask for extra scallops ($2 per scallop) and extra sauce ($1 extra) too.

    Dessert: Sticky Date Pudding
    For dessert, I asked for the sticky date pudding which was not a selection choice on their set menu but the staff were willing to accommodate my request by asking me to pay for a small difference which I think was just $2. When the pudding came it was beautifully presented and tasted delicious! The pudding was soft, moist and full of date flavour. The sauce was rich and sweet without being on the heavy side. It was so good, even though I was really full after my main and entree, I just couldn't stop eating my dessert as each mouthful left me wanting more.

    Hubby went for a lighter choice of dessert which was the apple slice- which resembles more of an apple crumble by the way. This dessert was also beautifully presented on a plate and tasted delicious. The apples were nicely stewed and matched beautifully with the crunchy, golden crumble and luscious custard. Very homestyle and comfy.


    Dessert: Apple Slice with custard

    In summary, hubby and I had a lovely night. We had great food, great service and the set menu was great value for money (more expensive if ordering a la carte). The meals were well time and spaced apart appropriately. Hubby and I both left the restaurant satisfied and feeling very full. The only downside I suppose to dining here would be that you leave the restaurant smelling like BBQ smoke but this is the same with all BBQ restaurants. At least this restaurant had good ventilation!

    Stonegrill on Urbanspoon

    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Mushroom Tacos

    I'm trying to reduce my meat consumption by eating vegetarian once a week and getting on board with Meatless Monday. Benefits of going meatless once a week include reducing your risk of chronic preventable conditions like cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. It can also help reduce your carbon footprint and save precious resources like fresh water and fossil fuel.

    Initially, I thought it'd be hard to not have meat as part of a meal and feel satisfied/filled but surprisingly it hasn't been too difficult, even hubby doesn't mind the odd vegetarian meal!


    Recipe adapted from Recipes +, June 2008 edition, page 68

    Ingredients

    1 tablespoon cooking oil
    400g button mushrooms, sliced
    6 green onions, thinly sliced
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 small red capsicum, diced
    375g jar mild or medium heat chunky tomato salsa
    300g can kidney beans, drained
    ⅓ cup chopped coriander
    1 pkt taco seasoning
    8 taco shells, warmed, to serve
    1 cup shredded lettuce
    1 medium tomato, diced
    ⅓ cup sour cream
    ⅓ cup shredded tasty cheese
    Guacamole, to serve

    Method
    1. Heat oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over moderate heat. Cook and stir mushrooms for 3 minutes or until tender. Add onions, garlic and capsicum. Cook and stir for 4 minutes or until onions are soft. Reduce heat; stir in salsa and beans. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Stir in coriander.
    2. To serve, fill taco shells with mushroom mixture. Garnish with lettuce, tomato, sour cream, cheese and guacamole.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Schnitzels with Mango Curry Sauce

    A couple of months ago, my husband and I attended a marriage course- not because we thought that we had marriage problems but because we wanted to continue to invest in our marriage and learn how we could build up a strong, healthy and happy marriage. The marriage course provided my husband and I a great time to spend time with each other as well as  learn more about each other.

    Over the course of several weeks, we were served a candlelit dinner with dessert at a romantic dinner for two followed with listening and watching to practical talks played on DVD and then some private time as a couple to discuss and work through a booklet.

    It was really nice to go "on a date" with my hubby each week and be served some lovely food. A lot of the course participants really enjoyed the food and asked the hosts for the recipes, so at the end of the course, our hosts put together a recipe book of all the meals we ate for us and included some marriage tips inside! One of the recipes in the book is this schnitzel with mango curry sauce.


    To find out more about the marriage course, click on the following website:
    http://marriage.stjamescroydon.org.au/

    There is no group work throughout the course and you didn't have to share anything about your relationship with anyone other than your partner.


    Ingredients

    4 chicken breasts fillets or 500g pork leg steaks
    ⅓ cup plain flour
    2 eggs
    2 cups breadcrumbs
    ½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped (optional)
    ¼ cup sage leaves, finely chopped (optional)
    2 tablespoons butter
    olive oil, for frying
    steamed vegetables, to serve 

    Mango Curry Sauce

    1 mango cheek
    2 tablespoons whole egg mayonnaise
    a tiny flick of curry paste

    To make mango curry sauce:

    Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. If too thick, thin it out with a splash of chicken stock liquid.

    Method

    Preheat oven to 130°C. Place meat between 2 sheets plastic wrap. Pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until 4mm thick.

    Combine flour and salt and pepper on a large plate. Lightly whisk eggs in a shallow dish. Combine breadcrumbs, parsley and sage in a separate shallow dish.

    Lightly coat meat in seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Dip in egg then coat in breadcrumb mixture, pressing crumbs on with fingertips to secure. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

    Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a large frying pan. Pour oil into pan until 1cm deep. Heat over medium-high heat until hot. Cook schnitzels, in batches, for 2 to 3 minutes each side or until golden. Drain on paper towel. Place on a baking tray in oven to keep warm while cooking remaining schnitzels.

    Serve schnitzels with mango curry sauce and steamed vegetables

    Notes & Tips

    Do not cover the schnitzels and don't pile them on top of each other when placing them in the oven

    Adding chopped sage or parsley or Parmesan cheese to the schnitzels gives a different flavour

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Passionfruit Panna Cotta


    Ingredients

    600ml thin cream
    1½ cups milk
    2/3 cup caster sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla essence
    7 passionfruit
    1 tablespoon gelatine
    ¼ cup (60ml) hot water
    Passionfruit syrup (optional)

    Method
    1. Place cream, milk, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan. Stir on low heat until sugar has dissolved. Increase heat and cook until just simmering. Remove from heat.
    2. Meanwhile, remove pulp from 5-6 passionfruit and strain. Discard seeds. Stir passionfruit juice into cream mixture. Whisk together gelatine and hot water until dissolved. Add to cream and mix well. Set aside to cool slightly. Wet 10 x 1/2-cup moulds or glasses with a little water. Strain mixture into a jug and pour liquid into moulds. Cover with plastic wrap. Put in the fridge for 6 hours or overnight to set.
    3. Remove panna cotta from refrigerator 10 minutes before serving. Dip moulds into warm water for 3-4 seconds and invert onto serving plates. Top each panna cotta with pulp from remaining passionfruit or use passionfruit syrup.
    Notes & Tips

    You can make the panna cotta up to 2 days ahead

    Tuesday, August 31, 2010

    Salad Nicoise with Slow Roasted Vegetable Ravioli

    This light dinner dish is a modern twist on the French classic!

    Adapted from the Latina Deliciously Fresh Recipe Book, page 20

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    625g pack fresh slow roasted vegetable ravioli
    4 eggs
    375g green beans, blanched and halved diagonally
    4 large vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
    2 x 185g cans tuna in olive oil, drained, reserving 2 tablespoons of oil
    ¼-½ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
    ¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly torn
    8 small anchovy fillets, torn lengthways
    2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    Freshly cracked pepper, for serving

    Method
    1. Add ravioli to large saucepan of boiling water. Return to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
    2. Meanwhile, place eggs in a small saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and cook for 4 minutes. Cool in cold water, peel and cut into quarters.
    3. Combine ravioli, beans, tomatoes, tuna, olives, parsley and anchovies in a large bowl.
    4. Combine reserved oil from tuna and lemon juice in a screw top jar.
    5. Add dressing to salad and gently combine. Serve topped with eggs and pepper.

    Sunday, August 29, 2010

    Sweet Corn and Bean Enchiladas


    Serves 4

    Ingredients 

    12 enchilada tortillas
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 small red onion, chopped
    1 red capsicum, diced
    1 zucchini, grated
    1 teaspoon chilli powder
    ½ teaspoon paprika powder
    1 large tomato, diced
    310g can corn kernels, drained
    400g can red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
    200g jar taco sauce
    ¾ cup grated tasty cheese
    Sour cream, to serve
    Guacamole, to serve


    Method

    Preheat oven to 180°C. Wrap tortillas in foil. Warm in oven for 10 minutes.


    Meanwhile, heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion, capsicum and zucchini. Cook for 3 minutes. Add chilli powder and cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes. 


    Add tomato and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes or until soft. Add corn, beans and salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir to combine. 


    Grease a large baking dish. Place 1/4 cup filling on 1 warm tortilla (keep remainder wrapped in foil as you work). Roll up. Place, seam side down, in baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling. 


    Spoon taco sauce over tortillas. 


    Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve immediately with sour cream and guacamole.


    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    My Family Feast Prize Pack

    Look what arrived in the mail today? It's my Family Feast Prize Pack!


    I vaguely remember entering this competition on the SBS website a few months ago and when I got the email in July saying that I was one of ten lucky winners in the competition, I was very happy. I had been looking forward to receiving this prize pack since my email notification and it's finally arrived! Yay!!!

    There are 13 different cultures represented in this book, all family recipes from vastly different backgrounds, from Cuba to China, Afghanistan to Vietnam and Burma to Bali.

    I'm very excited to have won this prize and I can't wait to get started on trying all these wonderful cuisines :)

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Roasted Vegetable Ravioli with Bocconcini and Basil

    This is a very simple and easy to put together mid week pasta meal

    Adapted from the Latina Deliciously Fresh Recipe Book, page36

    Ingredients

    625g pack Latina® Fresh Slow Roasted Vegetable Ravioli
    250g punnet cherry tomatoes, cut in half
    1 tub bocconcini, torn
    1 cup fresh basil leaves
    2-3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    Freshly cracked pepper, for serving

    Method
    1. Halve the tomatoes horizontally and place, skin-side down, on a baking tray. Sprinkle with a teaspoon of sugar and 1 tbsp olive oil over the top. Season with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 30 minutes in a preheated oven (180C) or until softened and lightly charred.
    2. Add ravioli to large saucepan of boiling salted water. Return to the boil and cook for 5 minutes. Drain and cool slightly.
    3. Gently combine cooked pasta, tomatoes, bocconcini and basil in a large bowl.
    4. Place pasta on a serving platter or serving plates, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with pepper.

    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    Home-made Vanilla Ice Cream

    Making home-made ice cream from scratch is so easy if you have the help of an ice-cream maker and this recipe is a good basic one that you can use to make vanilla ice cream as well as other flavours such as mint chip or cookies & cream.

    As we are using pure, fresh ingredients for this recipe, just remember that your home-made ice cream will not have the same characteristics as commercially prepared ice cream since most store-bought versions use gums and presevatives to make them firmer. If you desire a firmer consistency, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and store in the freezer until desired consistency is reached, usually two or more hours.

    You may substitute lower fat creams and milk (reduced fat or low fat) for heavy cream and whole milk for a low-fat version of this recipe but keep in mind that this may change the taste, consistency and texture of the ice cream since the higher the fat content, the richer and creamier the result.

    Adapted from the recipe in Cuisinart Automatic Frozen Yoghurt-Ice Cream & Sorbet Maker Instruction & Recipe Booklet, page 4

    Makes approx. 1.25L

    Ingredients

    1 cup whole milk, well chilled
    ¾ cup caster sugar
    2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
    2 tsps vanilla extract (or 1 vanilla bean, split lengthways, seeds scraped)

    Method
    1. In a medium bowl, use a whisk to combine the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
    2. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla to taste.
    3. Churn mixture in an ice-cream machine according to the manufacturer's directions
    4. Serve with toppings of choice
    Variations:

    Cookies & Cream Ice cream: Add 3/4 cup coarsely chopped cookies or your favourite candy (chocolate chip, Oreos etc) during the last 5 minutes of churning. 

    Mint Chip Ice cream: Omit the vanilla and replace with 1 to 1½ teaspoons peppermint extract. Chop 120g bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate into tiny uneven pieces. Add the chopped chocolate during the last 5 minutes of churning.

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Udon Noodle Soup with Crumbed Prawn Cutlets

    Panko breadcrumbs make these prawns deliciously crunchy but if you don't have any just substitute with fresh breadcrumbs. Dried or long-life udon noodles are great to keep in the pantry, so you can turn out something as light and comforting as these soupy noodles on the spot.


    Ingredients

    20g instant dashi powder
    3 tbsp soy sauce
    2 tbsp mirin
    6-8 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30mins and then thinly sliced
    250g dried or 400g long-life udon noodles
    10 medium green prawns, shelled (tail left on)
    1 egg
    3 tbsp vegetable oil
    ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
    2 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
    200g silken tofu, cubed
    1 bunch Chinese green leaf vegetables, trimmed (e.g. baby bok choy, baby choy sum, Chinese cabbage)

    Serves 2-3


    Method
    1. For the broth, bring 800 millilitres of water to the boil, then add the dashi powder, mirin and soy sauce and simmer for two minutes. 
    2. Add the mushrooms and simmer gently for five minutes. 
    3. If using dried noodles, cook them in simmering water for 9 to 10 minutes until tender, then drain and rinse. If using longlife, cover with boiling water for 30 seconds, gently separate with chopsticks, then drain and rinse. 
    4. Meanwhile, cut each prawn along the back and remove any intestinal tract. Open it out and run a rolling pin gently over it to flatten the meat and trim neatly. 
    5. Beat the egg until light and frothy. Heat the oil in a small frying pan. Dip each prawn in the egg, then the crumbs, and fry the prawns for one to two minutes each side until crisp and golden. 
    6. Add the noodles, spring onions, Chinese vegetables and tofu to the soup and heat through for two minutes. 
    7. Using tongs, divide the noodles between warm, shallow pasta bowls. Ladle the soup on top, add the prawns and serve.

    Saturday, July 24, 2010

    Zabaglione

    I had 6 egg yolks left over from another recipe/dish I had made. Not content with just throwing them into the bin, I decided to make Zabaglione which is a simple Italian dessert made with just egg yolks, sugar and Marsala wine. This light and fluffy custard however gave my arms such a work out! Just a few minutes into whisking the custard over the simmering water, I could feel my arms aching from all that whisking! Maybe next time I'll try using the electric whisker- not sure if it'll give me the same results but at least it'll be less painful- on another note, at least I'm enjoying the fruits of my labour whilst eating the Zabaglione, or should I really be saying that my hips just keep getting wider :P


    Serves 4-6


    Ingredients

    6 egg yolks
    ⅓ cup caster sugar
    ¼ cup Marsala wine or dry white wine
    Strawberries, lady fingers or biscotti, to serve

    Method
    1. Half-fill a pot with water. Bring the water to a simmer and reduce the heat to low.
    2. Whisk the yolks, sugar and wine together in a large, round bottomed stainless steel bowl until frothy.  Set the bowl containing the custard mixture over the water; the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water. Continue to whisk over the pot of simmering water until light and fluffy and forming soft peaks - approx. 10 minutes. 
    3. Whilst whisking the custard mixture make sure the water does not boil. This ensures that a gentle, even heat thickens the mixture without scrambling it. Whisking traps air in the yolks for a light, fluffy mixture.
    4. Continue whisking until the mixture triples in volume, froths up and becomes pale.
    5. When it reaches the desired consistency, take the bowl out of the pot. Continue whisking for a minute or two to prevent the custard from sticking to the bowl.
    6. Pour the zabaglione into glasses and serve with strawberries and/or biscuits like lady fingers or biscotti.
    Notes & Tips

    The whisking is done over simmering water so that the egg yolks cook as they thicken into a light, foamy custard. The mixture must not get too hot during cooking or it will become grainy. If it begins to feel warmer than body temperature, remove the bowl briefly from the heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture cools. Then return the bowl to the heat and continue cooking.

    Zabaglione may be served warm or cold. A cold one is whisked off the heat until cooled. Traditional zabaglione must be made just before serving. The warm froth can be served as a dessert by itself or as a sauce over cake, fruit, ice cream or pastry.

    In France, this is called sabayon

    Friday, July 23, 2010

    Pear and Rocket Salad

    What I really love about this salad is the explosion of flavours- the crunchiness that comes from the hazelnuts, the saltiness from the pancetta and goat's cheese, the fresh taste and sweetness of the pears, the bitterness of the rocket and the acidity from the dressing. This salad is a great accompaniment to any meat dish and just so simple to put together.

    There are 2 ways I like to use the pear when making this salad. The first way is to caramelise the pears and the second way is to just thinly slice the pears lengthways using a mandolin and serving it fresh/uncooked. I tend to caramelise the pears in Winter since it's cold and I don't often feel like eating cold salad, but in Summer I tend to just slice the pears and have it fresh. Whichever way, both work with this salad.

    Adapted from the recipe in Notebook magazine, March 2 2010, page 7

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    4 pancetta slices
    2 Williams pears, peeled and cored
    1 tbsp red wine vinegar
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 tsp Dijon mustard
    1 tsp honey
    1 bunch baby rocket (approx. 65g), washed
    ¼ cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
    50g goat's milk cheese

    Method
    1. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, turning occasionally, for 2 minutes or until golden-brown and crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.  
    2. Combine the vinegar, oil, mustard and honey in a screw-top jar and shake until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. 
    3. Arrange the rocket leaves onto a serving platter. Coarsely break up the pancetta and sprinkle over the rocket with the pears and hazelnuts. Crumble over the goat's cheese. Drizzle with dressing and serve immediately.
    Notes & Tips

    To make caramelised pears, heat 20g butter and 1 tbsp brown sugar in a small non stick frying pan over medium heat. Add pears (cored and cut into wedges) and sauté for 2-3 minutes until light golden.

    To slice the pears thinly, use a mandolin.

    Tuesday, July 13, 2010

    Osso Bucco


    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    4 x 350-400g, centre bone cut pieces of veal osso buco
    50mL extra virgin olive oil 
    2 onions, finely diced 
    2 cloves garlic, finely diced
    2 anchovy fillets 
    1 cup dry white wine
    800g tinned crushed tomatoes
    1 cup veal or beef stock 
    2 large sprigs of fresh thyme
    2 large sprigs of fresh sage
    1 large sprig of fresh rosemary 
    1 fresh bay leaf 
    Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

    For the puree:
    2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
    2 tbsp finely chopped good quality anchovy 


    Method

    Season the veal with the sea salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and brown the veal osso buco pieces evenly on all sides. The veal should be well coloured but be careful not to burn the meat.

    Remove the browned veal shanks from the pan and set them aside in the slow cooker. Add the diced onion, garlic, anchovy and herbs and sauté slowly for about 5 minutes or until translucent.  Turn heat up and then add the white wine to deglaze the pan. Cook until the wine is almost completely reduced before adding the tomatoes and veal stock.

    Bring to the boil before adding into the slow cooker- make sure the sauce covers the veal. Check for seasoning and adjust accordingly, if the tomatoes are not as ripe and sweet as they should be a little sugar should be added. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the cut but will take somewhere between 4 to 6 hours on low setting.

    The veal should be fork tender, with the meat just beginning to separate from the bone when you remove them from the slow cooker. Do not remove until meat is falling off the bone. 

    To make the purée, combine the garlic, anchovy and parsley.

    After you have removed the veal from the sauce, stir in the puree.  Serve veal pieces with equal portions of creamy polenta and spoon a little of the veal sauce over the top of the veal pieces to finish.

    Soft Creamy Polenta

    This traditional Italian staple makes a fantastic warming side dish for meat, chicken, fish or vegetables.

    Ingredients

    1 litre (4 cups) chicken stock
    1 cup coarse polenta (cornmeal)
    125ml (1/2 cup) thin cream
    1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
    40g butter
    Salt & finely ground white pepper

    Method
    1. Bring the chicken stock to the boil in a large heavy-based saucepan over high heat. Use a wire balloon whisk to stir the stock. Gradually add the polenta in a thin steady stream, whisking constantly until all the polenta is incorporated into the liquid (whisking ensures the polenta is dispersed through the liquid as quickly as possible). Don't add the polenta too quickly or it will turn lumpy. 
    2. Reduce heat to low (cook the polenta over low heat otherwise it will cook too quickly and you will need to add extra water/stock). Simmer, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for 10 minutes or until the mixture thickens and the polenta is soft. (To test whether the polenta is soft, spoon a little of the polenta mixture onto a small plate and set aside to cool slightly. Rub a little of the polenta mixture between 2 fingers to see if the grains have softened. If the grains are still firm, continue to cook, stirring constantly, over low heat until the polenta is soft.)  
    3. Remove from heat. Add the cream, Parmesan and butter, and stir until well combined. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

    Notes & Tips

    The hot polenta may splatter as it cooks, so use a long-handled wooden spoon to avoid being scalded.

    Saturday, July 10, 2010

    Lamb Shanks with Thyme and Rosemary

    I love eating lamb shanks with the meat falling off the bone and this slow cooker recipe will do just exactly that! This is a great Winter recipe that I keep going back to. It's so easy to make since all I have to do is just pop all the ingredients into the slow cooker, set it on low heat and 4-6 hours later, a nice hearty meal awaits- minimal time, minimal fuss, maximum flavour!

    Recipe adapted from taste.com.au- July 2008, page 4

    Ingredients

    4 lamb shanks, French trimmed
    plain flour, for dusting
    salt and cracked black pepper
    1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
    1 Spanish onion, chopped
    2 garlic cloves, crushed
    400g can crushed tomatoes (with roasted capsicum)
    3 cups (750ml) beef stock
    3 sprigs rosemary
    3 sprigs thyme
    75g baby spinach leaves
    100g mushrooms, sliced
    Roast potatoes, to serve, if desired

    Method
    1. Add the carrot, onion, garlic, tomatoes, beef stock, rosemary and thyme into a slow cooker. 
    2. Dust the lamb shanks in the flour, salt and pepper, and shake off excess. 
    3. Heat a little olive oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat. Cook the lamb shanks, in batches, for 3-4 minutes or until browned. 
    4. Add lamb shanks into the slow cooker, cover with the lid and cook for 4-6 hours on low setting.
    5. When almost ready to serve, stir through the mushrooms and baby spinach leaves. Cook for a few more minutes or until leaves are wilted. Serve with roast potatoes if desired.

    Notes & Tips

    The size of shanks can vary, so ensure all the shanks will fit in the pot before commencing.



    Tuesday, June 29, 2010

    Sweet & Sour Pork

    A bit fiddly, but well worth the effort. I find that marinating the pork overnight is a must for this dish – the flavour is so much more intense. The double frying is also essential to get that incredibly crispy texture of the pork fillets. For a healthier version, you can pan fry the pork instead.


    Ingredients

    600g pork scotch fillet, cut into 1.5cm pieces or 1.2kg pork spare ribs
    Vegetable/peanut oil for deep fry

    Marinade
    3tbs cornflour
    2tbs cold water
    2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
    6 tsp light soy sauce
    4 tsp sesame oil
    1 tsp sea salt

    Sweet and Sour Sauce

    1 tbs peanut oil
    1 green capsicum, chopped
    1 red capsicum chopped
    1 carrot, sliced
    1 brown onion, sliced
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    ½ cup caster sugar
    ½ cup (125ml) white vinegar
    1 tbs soy sauce
    1 tbs tomato sauce
    1 cup (250ml) water
    2 tbs cornflour mixed with 2 tbs water
    ½ small ripe pineapple, peeled and chopped or use 425g can pineapple pieces in natural juices if fresh unavailable
    Red food colouring (optional)

    Batter
    1 cup tapioca flour
    Salt and pepper

    Method
    1. For the marinade: blend cornflour with water in a medium-sized bowl until dissolved. Add egg yolks, soy sauce, sesame oil and salt and mix well to combine. Add to pork. Cover and leave to marinate in the refrigerator overnight if time permits.
    2. For the sauce: heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, capsicums, carrot and garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, tomato sauce and water until sugar dissolves. Combine the cornflour and 2 tbs water. Add to the pan and whisk until it comes to the boil. Simmer for 2 minutes. Stir in the pineapple. Add red food colouring if desired. Set aside.  
    3. Heat the deep fryer to 190°C. Meanwhile, make the batter by combining the flour with some salt and pepper. 
    4. Dip the marinated pork cubes in the batter. Deep-fry pork in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the deep fryer. Deep fry until pork is almost cooked through/golden brown. 
    5. Remove from deep fryer and drain on kitchen paper.
    6. When oil is reheated again, return the pork to the hot oil and deep-fry for a further 3 minutes, or until lightly browned, crispy and cooked through. 
    7. Remove from deep fryer and drain well on kitchen paper.
    8. Combine pork with sweet and sour sauce. Serve with rice.

    Friday, June 25, 2010

    Carrot Cake

    I felt like doing some baking today, so I made this carrot cake which is just so moist and full of taste. WARNING though- It's not for the diet conscience.

    I would normally add ½ cup walnuts to my carrot cake but today I just simply forgot! So I added some to the top of the cake as decoration instead :P

    The mini carrots around the cake are made out of marzipan. Marzipan is a sweet almond and sugar paste. It can be moulded into any shape and is commonly sculpted and painted into fruit, animals, and flowers. When used to ice a cake, marzipan can be rolled into thin sheets and draped over the cake. It is then carefully smoothed down to provide a uniform look- wedding cakes are commonly iced this way.

    You can easily make your own marzipan or purchase it in the baking section of your supermarket. I didn't have any in my pantry and just made it from scratch. I used ½ cup almond meal, ½ cup icing sugar, ½ eggwhite and 1 drop vanilla extract. I then kneaded all the ingredients together until I had a smooth pliable dough. The marzipan carrots are easy enough to make, and they just simply look adorable on top of carrot cake or cupcakes!

    Adapted from the recipe in Fresh Living magazine- 9 August 2004, page 53

    This recipe makes one 20cm round cake or sixteen 1/3 cup capacity cupcakes

    Ingredients

    Oil, to grease
    2-3 (about 300g) carrots
    1 cup self-raising flour
    ½ cup plain flour
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    ½ cup brown sugar
    ¾ cup vegetable oil
    ½ cup golden syrup
    3 eggs
    1 tsp vanilla essence
    ½ cup walnuts, chopped

    Icing

    250g spreadable cream cheese (softened)
    ½ cup icing sugar
    ½ tsp vanilla essence

    Marzipan carrots

    Marzipan
    Red and yellow food colouring
    Icing sugar for dusting
    Edible sprigs of herbs for decoration, such as dill or parsley (optional)



    Method
    1. Preheat oven to 170°C. Grease a 20cm (base) round cake pan lightly with oil, and line with non-stick baking paper. Peel and grate the carrots, and set aside. Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a large bowl. Mix well together.
    2. Put the brown sugar, oil, golden syrup, eggs and vanilla in a separate bowl. Use a balloon whisk to mix until combined.  
    3. Pour the oil mixture into the dry ingredients. Use a wooden spoon to stir gently until just combined. Stir in the grated carrot and walnuts. 
    4. Pour the mixture into the pan and bake for 1 hour. Set aside for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  
    5. To make the icing, place the cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence in a bowl. Use an electric mixer to beat until mixture is light and fluffy.
    6. Spread the icing over the cake. Decorate cake as desires
    To make the marzipan carrots

    Coat your hands with icing sugar, or wear plastic gloves (this prevents the marzipan from sticking to your hands).

    Knead the marzipan until it has softened slightly. Flatten the marzipan into a disc, and add a few drops of red and yellow food coloring to the middle, using a ratio of 1 drop red to 2 drops yellow. Fold the marzipan into a ball and begin to knead the color throughout the dough, adding more food coloring if desired, working until the marzipan is one uniform color.

    Roll the dough into small balls the size of a 5 cent piece. Roll the balls between your palms, elongating them into thin tubes and tapering one end, so that they are shaped like carrots.

    Take a toothpick and, holding it perpendicular to the carrots, make horizontal indentations all along the length of the carrot to create slight creases.

    If desired, poke holes in the tops of the carrots, and insert the sprigs of herbs to be the carrot leaves.

    Store marzipan carrots in an airtight Tupperware container for up to two weeks

    Friday, May 28, 2010

    Potato & Leek Soup

    The nights are getting colder so warm yourself up by making this creamy potato and leek soup!


    Ingredients

    ¼ cup olive oil
    1 brown onion, halved, chopped
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    4-5 medium (about 700g) peeled desiree, pink eye or pontiac potatoes, cut into 2cm cubes
    2 leeks, pale section only, washed, dried, thinly sliced
    1.25L (5 cups) salt reduced chicken stock
    3 thick slices day-old white bread, crusts removed, cut into 2cm cubes
    ½ cup thickened cream
    Pinch of salt
    2 tbs finely chopped fresh chives

    Method
    1. Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes or until the onion softens. Add the potato and leek and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until leek softens. 
    2. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and gently boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until potato is soft. Remove from heat and set aside for 10 minutes to cool.  
    3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 180°C. Place bread in a roasting pan. Drizzle with remaining oil and toss until bread is evenly coated. Toast in preheated oven, shaking pan occasionally, for 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove croutons from oven and set aside. 
    4. Transfer one-third of the potato mixture to the jug of a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a clean saucepan. Repeat in 2 more batches with the remaining potato mixture. 
    5. Place the soup over medium heat. Add the cream and stir to combine. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until hot. Taste and season with salt. 
    6.  Ladle the soup among serving bowls. Sprinkle with chives and top with croutons. Serve immediately.
    Notes & Tips

    This soup will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

    To blend soups, use a stick blender, jug blender or food processor.

    Wednesday, May 26, 2010

    Nonya Fried Rice

    If you haven't figured it out by now, I like food and I like to eat. Which shouldn't come to anybody's surprise that I also like to watch cooking shows. However, I don't often cook what I watch on T.V. as most of the stuff that's cooked on the telly these days is too gourmet or fine dining for me. When I come home from an exhausting day at work, I don't want to necessarily be slaving away in the kitchen for 3 hours on a meal that will be eaten in 30 minutes and that doesn't taste nice reheated the next day for work. I tend to cook more easier, simpler, practical meals on a work night and occasionally on a weekend or a day off I might try a recipe that requires a bit more effort.

    Watching Poh's Kitchen the other day, I saw her make a dish called Nonya Fried Rice. It looked quite easy to put together and the flavours of this Malaysian style fried rice intrigued me so much that I decided to give it a go and to my surprise I quite liked it (and so did hubby). There is a spicy prawn flavour as you eat the fried rice (that comes from both the dried shrimp and fresh prawns), with the refreshing and cool taste of the cucumber. The cucumber also adds a nice crunch and bite to the dish.

    It's great to see Poh (the runner's up to season 1 Masterchef) have her own T.V. show and share some of her Malaysian recipes with the wider audience in Australia.


    Ingredients

    ¼ cup vegetable oil
    2 large red chillies, chopped and seeded
    3 cloves garlic, chopped
    4 shallots, chopped
    ¾ cups dried shrimp, soaked in boiling water
    10 green prawns, peeled deveined and cut into small pieces
    1 ½ cups jasmine rice, cooked
    2 tbs light soy
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp sugar
    ½ tsp white pepper
    2 eggs, beaten lightly
    1 telegraph (long thin) cucumber, quartered lengthways, seeds sliced off and discarded (for maximum crunch) and then sliced diagonally - about 2 to 3 mm

    Method
    1. Pound the chilli, garlic and shallots to a paste in a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, chopping finely will be completely appropriate.
    2. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok till hot and add the paste and sauté till it is rich and aromatic. (If finely chopping the aromatics, add the garlic first to the wok, and cook briefly, then the shallots and chilli and stir fry till aromatic).
    3. Pound drained dried shrimp in mortar and pestle till shredded, or blitz in a food processor to a crumbly consistency. Add to the wok and stir fry till fragrant. Add prawns and stir fry till just cooked. Immediately add rice, soy, salt, sugar and white pepper.
    4. Cook till rice has separated, and tender.
    5. Make a well in the middle of the wok pushing rice to the sides. Tip in the egg and let it sit for a while so the bottom has a while to caramelise. With an eggflip turn it over on the other side till that is also nice and brown, then chop it with the eggflip so little pieces of it cook all the way through. Add the cucumber and give it all a final toss so everything is incorporated, checking for seasoning. Serve hot or at room temperature.
    Notes & Tips

    The trick to cooking great fried rice is to pre-cook the rice and put it in the fridge overnight spread out on a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper. This makes the grains stay separate and prevents the fried rice from getting stodgy when cooking.

      Saturday, May 15, 2010

      Lemon Diva Cupcakes

      I finally had the chance today to make these Lemon Diva Cupcakes. The original recipe is from Julie Goodwin, winner of Masterchef season 1. I see why she won the cupcake challenge. These cupcakes are moist, fluffy and they do certainly pack a punch in terms of lemon flavour!


      Makes 12

      Ingredients

      100g unsalted butter, softened
      ¾ cup caster sugar
      ½ tsp vanilla extract
      finely grated zest of 3 lemons
      2 eggs
      1 cups self raising flour
      ½ cup milk

      Icing

      125g unsalted butter, softened
      2 cups icing sugar
      1½ tbs lemon juice

      Method

      1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12 hole medium muffin pan (1/3 cup capacity) with paper cases. Using electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract until light and creamy. Mix through the lemon zest.
      2. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg. Gently fold through the flour and milk in two alternate batches. Divide the mixture evenly among the paper cases.
      3. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and springy when touched. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before decorating.
      4. To make the icing, use electric beaters to beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the icing sugar a little at a time, beating constantly. Add half the lemon juice and beat until well combined. Add the remaining lemon juice a little at a time. Using a 1cm fluted nozzle, pipe the icing onto the cooled cupcakes.
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